CPBD 052: Steve Porter – In Defense of Atonement

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 4, 2010 in Christian Theology,Podcast

(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview philosopher Steve Porter. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Different theories of atonement in Christianity
  • The moral framework required for penal substitutionary theory of the atonement
  • Steve’s defense of a modified penal substitutionary theory

Download CPBD episode 052 with Steve Porter. Total time is 46:58.

Steve Porter links:

Links for things we discussed:

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris K July 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I like how Porter mentions the love of God in considering the atonement. My thought has been that many of the criticisms of penal substitution (like Ken Pulliam’s) leave out that key undergirding component of the atonement and take concepts like propitiation as if they operate independent of the primary motivation of soteriology: love.

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Jeff H July 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I find his logic odd on this. His competing examples of the team captain running laps for his teammate vs. the grandmother taking jail time for her grandson seem to hinge around degree of severity. Obviously murder is more severe than being late for practice.

But I don’t know how that translates into sin. God is, in this sense, treating all sin the same, since he uses the same act to atone for all of them. So if he thinks that a substitute is not allowable for murder, and some sin is murder, then why does God atone for all sin (including murder) with a substitute?

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Jeff H July 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Side note: I like the new music! Although, it doesn’t have quite the same punchy opening as the old one….doesn’t catch your attention quite as much. Oh well, change is good!

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lukeprog July 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Thanks Jeff. Yeah it isn’t as punchy, but I suspect it will be more accessible to some people.

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MC July 4, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I’m surprised that he still maintained the intuitiveness of penal substitution even after your coach/grandma counterexample. I think moral retributivism is pretty thin anyway, but even if I did, I’d think it absolutely bizzare to believe that one person’s folly could be rectified by the captain submitting herself to be punished for an errant player…

I’m also surpised that he pulled that tired, evangelicalism canard about how “something has just gotta’ be true about Christianity…” in virtue of its longevity/enduring transformative power/etc. *gag*

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Jeff H July 4, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I’m also surpised that he pulled that tired, evangelicalism canard about how “something has just gotta’ be true about Christianity…” in virtue of its longevity/enduring transformative power/etc. *gag*

Lol oh I know, I thought the same thing. I had to pause and ask myself, “Did he just say that human sacrifice in Christianity is okay and different from other human sacrifice simply because the religion lasted? Wow.” Like the only reason that Christianity survived is because people saw something beautiful and transcendent in it…

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Baal July 4, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I’ve never really got how Christians don’t see the continuity with older pagan rituals of the sacrificial scapegoats who took the sins of the community unto themselves and then were killed to expiate them.
Is it just a case that most people don’t know about it and the ones who are knowledgeable are theologians or otherwise trained in explaining it away?

And what form would the dismissals take. Something along the lines of Satan parodying Christ’s sacrifice before he made it, like the early Christians used?

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Supernova July 5, 2010 at 12:28 am

@ Baal

I first want to state I’m no historian, and the question/statement I’m about to pose deals with history. I would think one would need to show how early Jews got this idea of placing your sin(s) on another (in this case certain ‘clean’ animals) and then sacrificing it. The concept of placing your sins on another and then sacrificing it to take away sins was around in early Judaism. So, IMO, the problem is twofold: 1) finding older pagan beliefs than that of the Jews (with regards to placing sins on another and sacrificing it) and 2) show how this belief was infiltrated into Jewish thought.

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Baal July 5, 2010 at 3:47 am

Supernova,
Well you had the pharmakos in ancient Athens. Outcasts were maintained by the city, often ugly people, and when there was famine or plague which indicated the gods were displeased they were taken to the boundary of the city and killed. Eventually they were just beaten and driven away. This was seen to purify the city of sin.

The ancients knew of the connections between the religions of the Levant and Greece. The cult of Dionysus came from there. The prohibition of the Jews against eating meat and milk comes from the verse about not seething the kid in its mother’s milk. This was a ritual of the cult of Dionysus, who was the goat-god. So it was to stop the Jews from engaging in worship of a Levantine Dionysus.
In Babylonia, A goat was substituted for a human, and sacrificed to Ereshikigal, the goddess of the abyss. She was the sister of Inanna, and Inanna is arguably a forerunner of Christ because her myth tells how she went into the underworld and was killed by Ereshkigal and her body was hung on a pole. She rose after three days and was then Queen of Heaven, Earth and the underworld.
She then sent Dumuzi(Tammuz) in her place. The Bible talks of the complaints about the women of the Israelites lamenting for Tammuz.
Then there is the story of Aaron drawing lots over the goats and one being sacrificed to Jahweh while the other was sent away to Azazel. This is Yom Kippur.
Leviticus 17.7 says, ‘So they shall no more slay their sacrifices for satyrs (seirim), after whom they play the harlot’ (and, ‘neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it’-18.23)
Azazel was a goat god (or demon) the Israelites used to worship and was the leader of the seirim.
There are apocryphal Jewish writings before the time of Christ (Enoch) where the leader of the Watchers was Azazel, associated with Mars, the planet of war, and who taught men evil by showing them how to make weapons.
Rabbis in the middle ages used to decode these writings and try to reconstruct the history of the Jews before they became monotheists and the rituals they performed to these different deities.
The whole mythology of Satan as goat that entered Christianity is a patchwork of all this.
The rabbis reckoned that the sacrifice of animals was a move away from human sacrifice.
The story of Abraham and Isaac was seen to be a mythical account of the move away from human sacrifice and substituting animals.

I better stop otherwise it will turn into a novel, but basically you had plenty of rabbis who practised a form of exegesis on the writings and knew of the rituals of sacrifice as atonement and propitiation.
It was kept from the regular worshippers, sure. There is a Jewish saying which goes something like ‘What’s read and what’s said’ that describes how they would obscure some of the weirder stuff on the fly so as not to disturb people too much.
But basically, I don’t understand how Christians manage to avoid all this stuff.

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Baal July 5, 2010 at 3:56 am

To be clear, when I say Christians I mean those who really study it as opposed to the average church-goer.

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Supernova July 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

@ Baal

Thanks for the feedback.

I’m aware that ancient Jews were aware of other religions/beliefs. To note another, there was the fire of Moloch, in which the Jews were to not engage in.

However, with what you wrote above, I’m still not finding the connection of how Jews got their belief in putting their sins onto a ‘clean’ animal and then sacrificing it to make atonement.

With regards to the outcasts being thrown out, that doesn’t address atonement, that simply addresses how people back then thought people were contaminated and were shun from the city of fear of being polluted, not that they put their sins on those people and made atonement.

The only other thing in your post that would address animals, sins, and atonement, but not really, would be Ereshkigal. I looked this up, and sure there was a goat being offered, but has nothing to do with placing your sins onto the goat and sacrificing it for atonement. The story of Ereshkigal and the goat goes like this: when a man is sick (in this case can’t eat or drink), one will tie a goat to his bed and the man’s sickness will pass onto the goat, and then the next day the goat is sacrificed.

So, yes there is the similarity in that something from one is passed onto another, but at the same time, it says nothing about placing sins onto a ‘clean’ animal and then sacrificing it to make atonement.

To speak about Azazel, that goes to support what I’m saying, in that this was a Jewish belief. One needs to show a belief that predates the Jewish belief in placing sins onto a ‘clean’ animal and then sacrificing to make atonement, and how this belief infiltrated Jewish thought

As I said in the post before this one, I’m no historian, so I should learn about the history of the early Jews, and the people they interacted with and their beliefs.

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Steve Porter July 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Well, I’m the guy who “pulled that tired, evangelical canard” about something being right about Christianity due to its longevity/staying power. I didn’t mean to imply that the only explanation of Christianity’s resilience is its being true. Obviously there are non-rational reasons why Christianity has had the longevity/appeal it has had. Luke’s question was what makes Christ’s sacrificial death different than other human sacrifices of ancient religions that we find morally repugnant? My response is that Christ’s death is not morally repugnant by virtue of the argumentation alluded to in the interview. But moreover, it would seem that one sign of its not being morally repugnant is that at least some thoughtful and morally sensitive people find it to be true while they have not come to that same conclusion regarding other religions which involve human sacrifice. Certainly unjust human sacrifice would count against the truth of a religion that claims to be moral. So, I don’t think Christianity would remain tenable to so many thoughtful and morally sensitive people unless there were ways to make moral sense of Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice.

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Baal July 6, 2010 at 12:07 am

Supernova,
First I’d just like to point out that the ritual of the pharmakos wasn’t about people believing that

people were contaminated and were shun from the city of fear of being polluted

These people were a necessary part of the ritual and had to come from the city so that they could symbolically represent the people of the city.

…in Greek religion, a human scapegoat used in certain state rituals. In Athens, for example, a man and a woman who were considered ugly were selected as scapegoats each year. At the festival of the Thargelia in May or June, they were feasted, led round the town, beaten with green twigs, and driven out or killed with stones.

You have helped me to see what I was having trouble getting when you say this -

To speak about Azazel, that goes to support what I’m saying, in that this was a Jewish belief. One needs to show a belief that predates the Jewish belief in placing sins onto a ‘clean’ animal and then sacrificing to make atonement, and how this belief infiltrated Jewish thought

I see what you are getting at. Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but this seems to presuppose a certain stasis in belief. That one would need to show the exact same belief, that pre-exists that in the Bible, existing in an earlier people. This would be analagous to a Christian who doesn’t believe in evolution but believes that all animal were created in ‘kinds’ that have existed unchanged since their creation.
Whereas I, because I accept the fact of evolution, have no problem with an undertanding that the Jews’ religion ‘evolved’ out of different but related beliefs.
Rather how Christians want proof of saviour gods that were exactly like Christ, a copy-cat theory, rather than being able to accept that myths about dying and rising vegetation gods could have been the raw material out of which the story of Christ arose. Perhaps with the Zoroastrian belief in a coming saviour and the accompanying eschatology being grafted onto the Jewish idea of a messiah. They want to see an exact replica of Christ that pre-existed him and who died and rose only once, whose death was specifically for the salvation from sin of the people.

If this is correct then I agree it would be a problem to convince them.

Whereas I have no difficulty because I’m not wedded to a particular worldview. I don’t see why one would expect that peoples who changed from hunter-gatherers to pastoral through to agricultural settled communities would have the same relationship to the world and the same cultic forms.
On top of this the time would stretch back into prehistory so you wouldn’t have written accounts of what they believed but would have to engage in a kind of forensic investigation like evolutionary biologists do when they speculate on what an ancestral form would have looked like, without having a fossil remains.
In this case one couldn’t accept at face value the idea that the Bible is a historical account. That it is a collection of documents that has passed down to us unedited.
Rather one would have to see it as a myth of origins. The narrative of a people, created over time, to tell them where they have come from and where they are going and that has been historisised.
The Bible contains evidence of magical beliefs like divination, and necromancy such as The Witch of Endor who called up the ghost of prophet Samuel, at the demand of King Saul. You have midrash like the Targum Sheni not included in the Bible which sees King Solomon commanding an army of animals, birds and demonic spirits as subjects. He also has a magical throne. There isn’t a sharp break with the magical beliefs of the surrounding peoples but a continuum.
Then there is the fact that archaeology doesn’t support the picture of the Bible held by Biblical literalists.

I would ask why one would expect the exact same form of belief to have been pre-existent and to have infiltrated The Jews as you say.
Wouldn’t it be reasonable to show that people commonly believed they could purge a community of sin and misfortune by selecting one among them who would be a vessel for the collective guilt and that they could purify the community by driving out and killing that person? And that as time passed an animal could be substituted for a person as in the ritual at Yom Kippur?

Then there is no real reason I can see that older mythical forms couldn’t be reworked and built into the story of Jesus as saviour/messiah/sacrificial victim.

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Supernova July 6, 2010 at 1:07 am

@ Baal

I get where you’re coming from, I really do. One of the big faults I find with this concept that the Judeo-Christian view being a mixed blend of older pagan beliefs, is it takes away from the historicity of the Jewish people, and that of Jesus.

This is where scholars criticize those who say Christianity is a combination of older beliefs (or an adaptation of those older pagan stories), which formed what we now call Christianity. Scholars say this ignores the historicity of Jesus, and paints everything in a mythical mindset. As with this, much has been said and written on this very subject.

So, it seems we’re on different sides of the fence with this issue.

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Baal July 6, 2010 at 1:40 am

Supernova,
I’m not quite sure that I understand the criticism.
Jesus could have been a historical person while at the same time having myths attached to him.

It’s not like he was the only miracle worker of his time.
In fact, I don’t see how it could be ignored that the people of his time were steeped in myth. They have stories of him driving out demons into swine. Possession as a cause of illness. The dead rose from their graves and wandered about when he rose from the dead.
Even today in the modern era you have Christians who interpret the world from a mythical viewpoint, seeing hurricanes and natural disasters as portents of the end of times. They exist in an alternate universe of demons and spirits. This is in the 21st Century.
How is it so hard to imagine the people of Christ’s time interpreting the events of the world in a similarly mythical sense.

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Baal July 6, 2010 at 3:20 am

Supernova,
Further to the discussion of the scapegoat ceremony of Yon Kippur, There is also an apocryphal work preserved in Old Slavonic literature called the Apocalypse of Abraham which jewishencyclopedia.com dates to the last decades of the first century but with Christian and Gnostic interpolations.

There is a examination here –
http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/abrahamgoat.html
- as to whether whether Abraham is understood in the Slavonic apocalypse as the sacrificial goat for the Lord with Azazel as his counterpart. In support of the possibility it mentions this.

Yet one should not forget another portentous aspect of Yom Kippur symbolism that similarly exercised a formative influence on some Second Temple apocalyptic materials, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the Qumran writings one encounters a broad appropriation of the imagery of two lots, symbolism that has profound significance in the scapegoat ordinance. Like the figure of Azazel, who is enhanced with a new celestial profile, the imagery of the sacrificial lots also receives a novel eschatological reinterpretation. Thus, in a number of Qumran materials such as 1QM, 1QS, 4Q544, and 11Q13, the two lots become associated not with two sacrificial goats but with celestial protagonists, both positive – like Melchizedek or the Angel of Light – as well as negative – like Melchirešac, Belial, or the Prince of Darkness.

So as I don’t really know much about Qumran I just offer it as evidence that there was reinterpretation of the scapegoat ceremony in service of Jewish apocalypticism and eschatology.
So I don’t think it is pushing it to say there might have been a similar reinterpretation among the Jewish followers of Christ.

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Supernova July 6, 2010 at 10:19 am

@ Baal

The criticism would be that Jesus being a historical person — taking Jesus or much of Jesus to be myth takes away from the historicity. Not only that, but the fact that Jesus died for the sins of Mankind once and for all is so embedded in the history of this guy named Jesus. After all that is the thrust of this conversation we’re having deals with: the sacrificial atonement. The earliest documents we have about Jesus are from the Apostle Paul, and in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 reads, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

So, we see that Jesus died for the sins of Mankind all throughout the letters and epistles written by Paul the Apostle. Even without arguing or mentioning the Gospels, I believe one makes a strong case just in the letters and epistles written the the Apostle Paul, which are the earliest writings in the NT, that the central and main focus of this man named Jesus, is that he died for the sins of the world, and thereby defeated death and made atonement.

Scholars argue since the letters and epistles by the Apostle Paul are so early, that saying Jesus died for the sins of Mankind is myth is not viable. Largely the New Testament is history based (letters and epistles written by Paul, the synoptic Gospels, and the Book of Acts especially) that to argue that Jesus dying for the sins of Mankind is myth, destroys the historicity of the New Testament. Since this is the New Testament’s foundation, in that Jesus is the Messiah who unites Mankind with God, by atoning the sins of man by his sacrificial death.

With regards to the follow-up on the scapegoat. This goes to prove my point, in that these later interpolations are just that — they’re later and not history based, unlike the Book of Acts and the letters and epistles written by the Apostle Paul. Craig Evans, a respected scholar, who is a Christian, does a lot of work with the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, and the historicity thereof.

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Baal July 6, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Supernova,
All the arguments for Christ’s sacrificial death as atonement can still be mythical even if they are traceable to a certain point in history.
All the putative evidence for Christ’s dying for the sins of mankind is based on an interpretation of the various scriptures that prophesied a messiah. All of those prophesies are really opaque. What is done is no different to looking at the quatrains of Nostradamus and finding things that can be interpreted as preditions of future events that came to pass.

Just because the myth was created soon after the death of Jesus doesn’t make it any less a myth.
Look at all the myths that sprang up around 9/11. It only just happened and people were confabulating wild stories about conspiracies etc.
When you say this -

that to argue that Jesus dying for the sins of Mankind is myth, destroys the historicity of the New Testament.

it doesn’t make sense. Of course the New Testament is a historical document in the sense that it was written at a certain point in history. It in no way means that what was contained in the New Testament was all true. It can still be the documentation of the genesis of a myth being built around someone who had just died containing certain elements that actually happened, with the myth supported by interpretations of vague prophesies taken from older documents.
It doesn’t matter if Paul truly believed everything he was writing about Jesus. Don’t forget that Paul never actually met the living Jesus. He claimed to have had visions of him.

You seem to be commiting the logical fallacy of an argument from consequences. Something along the lines of -

‘If Jesus didn’t die for the sins of Mankind then everything in the New Testament isn’t factually true. The New Testament must be factually true, therefore Jesus died for the sins of Mankind.’

As to the material from Qumran, quoted to show how the story of Aaron drawing lots over the goats was being reinterpreted by the Jews, but this time with celestial protagonists, none of that is interpolation.That material was buried and only recently recovered.

The interpolations mentioned were only added to the material from the Old Slavonic literature and that wasn’t relevant to the argument I was making.

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Supernova July 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm

@ Baal

The Apostle Paul made sure to put a lot emphasis on the fact that Jesus’ death, resurrection, and atonement for man’s sins was an historical fact. In 1 Corinthians 15:13;17, as previously said is a early document, reads, “13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised… 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

If Jesus’ sacrificial death for atonement is myth, than it makes no sense that the Apostle Paul, and other early disciples of Christ (Luke, James, and Peter), would put so much emphasis on the fact that Jesus’ death, resurrection, an atonement for man’s sins is an historical fact.

Baal, you say, “All the putative evidence for Christ’s dying for the sins of mankind is based on an interpretation of the various scriptures that prophesied a messiah. All of those prophesies are really opaque.”

Isaiah 53 doesn’t seem opaque to me, plus his sacrificial death makes perfect sense. Remember that the Jewish people sacrificed ‘clean’ animals to make atonement for sins. Not only were these animals suppose to be ‘clean,’ but they also are to be without flaw and impurities. This is exactly the view of Jesus: without flaw or imperfections.

Baal, you say, “Just because the myth was created soon after the death of Jesus doesn’t make it any less a myth.
Look at all the myths that sprang up around 9/11. It only just happened and people were confabulating wild stories about conspiracies etc.”

Followers of Christ, like James, Peter (Cephas), and Paul were not dying for a myth, but for an actual historical event in history. Comparing the early Christian movement and beliefs to that of the stories of 9/11 is inane. I get the point you’re trying to make, but you’re completely down playing the objectiveness of history that early Christians believed in, namely that Jesus’ death, resurrection, and atonement for Mankind’s sins was an actual event in history, and not some collaborated beliefs from older stories, that is some myth we now call Christianity.

Baal, you say, “Of course the New Testament is a historical document in the sense that it was written at a certain point in history. It in no way means that what was contained in the New Testament was all true.”

By that standard Moby Dick is a history document since it was written at a certain point in history. We know that’s not what I mean when I say much of New Testament is history based. I mean that many books in the NT is considered ancient biography, which tells facts about actual history. I’m not arguing if everything in the New Testament is true, I’m arguing that it speaks about history in the objective since. Meaning there are facts of history in the New Testament.

Baal, you say, “It doesn’t matter if Paul truly believed everything he was writing about Jesus. Don’t forget that Paul never actually met the living Jesus. He claimed to have had visions of him.”

It’s not just Paul who believe these things, but also Peter (Cephas), Luke, and James who all risked persecution and martyrdom. Paul, in 1 Corinthians said he received this creed that he gave to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3). This creed is also taught in the Book of Acts. So, it’s more than just Paul, and these people were not taking this as myth, but as grounded as being historical.

Baal, you say, “You seem to be commiting the logical fallacy of an argument from consequences.”

No, my point is that Jesus’ sacrificial death and atonement for man’s sins is so embedded into the New Testament and is in the earliest documents of the NT, allows scholars to not take this belief as myth, but take it as being historically grounded as an actual event. The sacrificial atonement of Jesus fits the criteria of authenticity, which makes most contemporary scholars take this as historical rather than mythological.

Oh, thanks, I now got what you’re saying about the Qumran and the reinterpretation. Yes, the Dead Sea scrolls were found recently, in the last century. However, the dates of those scrolls are from c. 150 BCE – 70 CE. So, the reinterpretation the Jews did of Aaron and the goats is much older than the original in Leviticus. There is much debate to the dates of Leviticus, being around c. 550-400 BCE. Yes, I know reinterpretations were done, but I don’t see this hurting the historicity of what I’ve specifically been arguing here.

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Baal July 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Supernova,
I have been a bit dense and started out not realising you believe this stuff.
Firstly, Paul never met Jesus and we don’t have any authenticated writings from the companions of Jesus so we have no idea what they thought of Paul’s writings.
The four gospels are only attributed by tradition to those after whom they’re named.
By the third or fourth century of the common era, it appears church leaders had settled on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the four gospels that would be included in the canon that came to be the established Bible. Many others weren’t included. The decision about which books to include probably had more to do with tradition and the needs of the church at that time.

This

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised… 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

is a perfect example of an argument from consequences.

This

but you’re completely down playing the objectiveness of history that early Christians believed in

is nonsense. Because early Christians believed it in no way makes it objective history.

I didn’t realise when you said scholars you meant Christian scholars.

Anyway, I’m going to stop now as this isn’t going to go anywhere. I certainly have no interest in trying to change your mind and from what you’re writing you approach the early church from a conservative Christian viewpoint.

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Supernova July 6, 2010 at 9:07 pm

@ Baal

Yes, I am a theist — specifically a Christian. I hope this will not lose me any respect. I’m aware of the canonization process.

When I was using 1 Corinthians 15, I did so not to use it as an argument from consequence, but to make the point that Paul absolutely emphasized the fact that Jesus’ death, resurrection, and atonement for man’s sins was an actual act of history. He had so much trust in this belief that he went on to say if this is not so, than your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins. This isn’t an argument from consequence, but rather an argument of historical importance that this event happened, so much so Paul had strong words to say and did say if this event did not happen. Why would Paul, and as previously said the author of the Book of Acts, put so much emphasis that this event is an objective part in history if this were just a myth? I’d argue b/c they knew this was no myth, but an actual act in history. These men, Paul, Luke, Cephas (Peter), and James risked persecution and martyrdom.

Scholars understand just b/c Christians believed certain things don’t make it historically true. That is why there are criteria, methods, and techniques used to establish authenticity. I hope the comment about Christian scholars wasn’t meant to mean that Christians can’t do good scholarly work. We shouldn’t be dismissive depending on another’s worldview, but should look at the arguments given. For example, Bruce Metzger was one of Bart Ehrman’s teachers, and Metzger was quite conservative, but Ehrman came to different conclusions all the while knowing Metzger knew everything that he knew, if not more. As it is, we just don’t see eye to eye. Nothing wrong with that and this conversation wasn’t displeasing.

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Baal July 6, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Supernova,
The Christians burned thousands of heretics at the stake.
By your reasoning this is proof that what the heretics believed is true.

Your argument for the truth of the resurrection goes-
If these men’s belief in the resurrection was true then they’d be prepared to risk their lives for that belief.
They were prepared to risk their lives.
Therefore their belief was true.

This is the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent.

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Supernova July 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm

@ Baal

It would all depend what the heretics believed and the access scholars had to determine what would be authentic given the criteria, methods, and techniques used to determine the authenticity of certain things.

With regards to you saying I’m committing the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. Remember you are bringing forth the view that Christianity is a myth. I’m arguing that is is not.

My argument isn’t necessarily for the resurrection. Early Christians could’ve just had some strong visions and/or hallucinations that a resurrection happened, which would take away from your view that it is myth.

A simple argument would go like this:

Premise 1: The first Christians like Paul, Luke, Cephas (Peter), and James would not have risked their lives for a myth.
Premise 2: Paul, Luke, Cephas (Peter), and James, however, did risk their lives.
Conclusion: Therefore, Christianity is not a myth.

This is a modest argument (and is it not invalid) and doesn’t deal with early Christian beliefs being true or not, but an argument against Christianity being myth. Remember my argument is that these people thought this event; Jesus’ death, resurrection, and atonement for man’s sins, was an actual historical event. For my argument it doesn’t matter if this event actually took place (though I believe it did), but that this event is to be believed as historical and not myth. As said before, they all could’ve just had visions and/or hallucinations, but this would go against Christianity being myth.

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Baal July 7, 2010 at 10:34 pm

@Supernova
Sorry I took so long to get back as I have had family arrive to stay. My sister is graduating and I have to abstain from the internet.
A parting thought though.
Perhaps I should have stated what myth is in the specific way I was using it.
How myth arises out of a very human way of interpreting and structuring the events of the world into a dramatic narrative. With antagonists and protagonists etc. That it is part of a very human way of being in the world. That we are always humans-in-culture, stuff like that.
So myth in this sense isn’t believing something we know to be untrue. The narrative makes sense of the world and has a high degree of viridicality. As if it were a brute fact of the world.
But like I say, I have to leave that as I have guests to look after.
Take care.

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Baal July 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

That should have been has a high *sense* of viridicality.

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Supernova July 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm

@ Baal

Thanks for the conversation, and congratulations on your sister graduating. Good luck on hosting your guests!

PS: No worries about the typos. By no means am I immune to them.

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Supernova July 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm

That should have been “typo.” I’m definitely not immune…

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The Atheist Missionary September 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Porter wrote: “it would seem that one sign of [penal substitutionary theory] not being morally repugnant is that at least some thoughtful and morally sensitive people find it to be true while they have not come to that same conclusion regarding other religions which involve human sacrifice”. Boy, that’s convincing [not]. I’m still waiting for the other signs that it’s not morally repugnant.

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Sola Ratione October 15, 2010 at 12:09 am

Many thanks for this podcast Luke. I wondered if you or anyone else might be interested in these objections to Porter (and others) on Penal Substitution:

http://rationesola.blogspot.com/search/label/Substitutionary%20Atonement

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Garren November 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I liked this episode because I hadn’t heard quite this view on Christian atonement before and agree it accomplishes the goal of putting a certain kind of penal substitution in a morally justifiable light. It also addresses concerns about why an all powerful God would bother with it.

That said, I don’t think it’s the view originally expressed in Isaiah 53. I read a merit view there, but that’s because I think it was written specifically about the faithful Jews during the Babylonian exile who were treated unjustly along with those who brought about the punishment and therefore they have merited great rewards for all Jews. Christians who read Isaiah 53 as directly talking about Jesus could much more easily read it in a way that’s in line with Porter’s view.

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