Monday, December 13, 2010

Dialogue with an Atheist Regarding How Much He Knew About Biblical Exegesis as a Christian (esp. Abortion) (vs. "DagoodS")

By Dave Armstrong (12-13-10)

DagoodS' words will be in blue.

* * * * *

I thought it would be interesting to try and get some of DagoodS’ thoughts about the Bible, in order to establish more about his hostile presuppositions.

And so I ran across on his blog, a piece entitled, “This Leopard Can’t change its Spots” (6-27-08).
How did he view the Bible as a Christian? Well, there were already many indications and danger signs that he was misinterpreting it even then: so many that I could have easily predicted that he had a good chance of forsaking his faith and going atheist if I had met him ten years ago. He talks about what Christians do, as he observes them now:

“They don’t want to discuss the creation, content or context of the Bible. They want to discuss, ‘I feel.’ They want to discuss their perception of God.”

Then he acknowledges that he (the “leopard”) used to do exactly the same:

“I realize, in retrospect, this is exactly what I did as a Christian. Christians wanted Bible study to be, ‘Let’s read a verse and tell each other what we feel about it.’”

So now we have one of the hundreds of cases in which a former Christian, who wasn’t adequately informed of his faith when he still had it, projecting his past shortcomings onto most Christians that he meets. He rejected a straw man in the first place and now he fights straw men incessantly in order to justify his decision to abandon the straw man.

This is what we learn in examining deconversion stories. It’s always the same. I’ve yet to find one that is any different (perhaps I will one day if I keep looking hard enough).

DagoodS proceeds to give examples of what he didn’t believe the Bible taught, even as a Christian. He didn’t think it taught equality of the sexes. And sure enough, he didn’t hold (as a Christian) that the condemnation of abortion was taught (directly or indirectly) in the Bible:

“I was squeamish on the topic of abortion. Oh, there are plenty of arguments against abortion without needing to go to the Bible, but when people say, ‘God is against abortion’ I became very, very silent. All the verses regarding God recognizing children in the womb are glorifying his knowledge. There is no specific verse saying ‘deliberate abortion is wrong.’ Inferences and exegetical manhandling—yes. Specifics; no. Without those specifics, I thought it was better to be quiet than find out some day, in heaven, I was wrong.”

Wow. Isn’t it strange?! I look at the very same Bible and find about 100 passages (take out the deuterocanonical ones if you must) having to do with abortion in many of its aspects.

But DagoodS couldn’t “see” all those! I guess he didn’t know his Bible very well, and since he is a leopard who can’t change his spots (his own description, not mine), he continues to not know it very well today. So he fights against it, to justify his decision to stop believing that it is inspired and infallible.

There is no question whatsoever that the Bible condemns abortion: in many different ways. It defines the preborn child as indeed human and a person, and it forbids murder of persons. Case closed. End of story. That is really all that is required: A+B. Elementary logic. Moreover, when it condemns, e.g., child sacrifice, logically, the preborn are included, since they are considered children as well. It has passages like:

2 Kings 15:16 At that time Men’ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.
It’s wrong to do such things; therefore, abortion (as an act that is exactly the same in essence: “ripping up” a woman with child) is also wrong. The goal is to murder the child, which is an especially evil and despicable act.

But is this an exercise in logic that was too difficult for DagoodS as a Christian and now? It’s not difficult to grasp these simple logical deductions.

Yet he says, “What I don’t see are Christians who actually know their Bible.”

To use another well-known proverb (like the leopard and its spots): talk about the pot calling the kettle black . . .

What method do you propose I could utilize to objectively determine why I deconverted?

To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.

Was it for intellectual reasons? Was it because I was angry at God? Was it for moral reasons? Was it because I thought it would be cool? Was it to get the atheist discount card?

I concentrate on the first one. It is quite obvious to me that you greatly lacked skills in biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, simply from looking at the conclusions you came to. You could look at the Bible and not see that it condemned abortion. You didn’t get it that Christianity teaches the equality of men and women.

So the problems were in place long ago, and they were primarily what caused you to deconvert, in my opinion, because you believed in a caricature of Christianity and so rejected the same caricature when you found it inadequate. As Hosea 4:6 states (RSV): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;. . .”

Understand, I am NOT looking for the reasons you think I deconverted.

Sorry; already gave them . . . as usual, the atheist despises any analysis of his deconversion, because that is what he hangs his hat on. It’s scary to realize how flimsy the rationales are. They don’t wanna go there . . .

(Because you have the same rationalization problem as a human as I do. And you have significant lack of data, by not knowing me either as a Christian or now.)

I know this little tidbit of information that you offered: your atrocious exegesis of the Bible and inability to decipher its contents in areas like abortion. You yourself said such things caused you to start questioning biblical inspiration. It’s not even speculation on my part to note what you said about yourself. And so that is an objective way to analyze your defection: you say there is nothing about abortion; I say there are about 100 passages. You can try to explain all those away if you wish. I won’t hold my breath, given the way you are systematically ignoring dozens of questions and arguments in this combox thread.

I am looking for a method to apply where I can step back, and as objectively as possible determine what motivated me to deconvert.

I just gave you one. I’m sure you’re absolutely delighted that I have done so, right?

I will tell you I came up with a method and employed it. But I don’t want to tell you what it is, yet, to prevent tainting your own suggestion.

I’m not interested in games and ring-around-the-rosey, but serious analysis and comparison of the plausibility of opposing positions. The abortion-in-the-Bible discussion offers us one of many ways to do so.

Only internet apologists are unsatisfied I was ever a Christian.

I have not claimed that and I am an Internet apologist if there ever was one. Calvinism requires that (since it denies that a true Christian can ever fall away from Christianity), and I am not a Calvinist. I wouldn’t have said that as a Protestant, either, because I was an Arminian, and they believe that Christians can fall away and commit apostasy. Therefore, I call you a “former Christian.” Pretty hard to do that if I thought you never were one, ain’t it? It’s possible, of course, that you never were one, but I don’t assert that. I accept your report at face value.

I have said that I think your knowledge of important issues within your Christianity was woefully deficient. In other words, you seem to have had only a poor acquaintance with the apologetics that may have kept you a Christian. It’s why I do what I do. So many times people reject Christianity because they falsely believe that it is something that it is not. My job is to show that it is 1) a great thing; 2) a true thing; and 3) that the reasons in favor of it are far better than those against it.
This causes the Christian to have confidence and to be spared from various counter-influences. And of course within the Christian paradigm I argue that Catholicism is the fullest and most true expression of Christianity.

Generally when dealing with atheists, though, I defend general Christianity and don’t get into Catholic issues unless I am asked something specific about that.
To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.
Aye…and there’s the rub. I did. I spoke with Pastors and Deacons and Professors and learned men. I spoke with friends I respected, men I revered, and strangers recommended. I spoke in person, through e-mail and on-line. And they were unable to provide satisfactory answers.

Then why do you still seek them out? You still think someone out there can convince you to return to Christianity? Are you trying to do the Karl Popper falsification thing? You will always find the answers satisfactory, no matter how good they are. That is the whole point! You do, I believe, because of the reasons I have outlined, not because the answers were always insufficient in and of themselves, or untrue.

Apparently what you are claiming is I spoke to the wrong ones.

I have no idea about these people unless I see something concrete. What I have seen myself shows me that you were abysmally ignorant of sensible, proper biblical interpretation, at least in those particular areas. But you refuse to pursue that line of critique, to try to prove me wrong. I’d be happy to go over my hundred or so proofs of the biblical prohibition of abortion (the example I have highlighted), that you claim are actually not there, and therefore that Scripture is wildly eisegeted and mishandled by those with a pro-life agenda that they then wrongly project onto the Bible.

Fair enough. What method do I use to determine who the “correct” Christians who “understand Christianity far better” are, in order for me to dialogue with them?

The same one that enabled you to figure out who the best defenders of the Resurrection are. You managed to find those. So you can figure out who the best defenders of Scripture are. But you have to truly interact with them (assuming they have the time and/or interest to do it with you). You can’t skirt and evade the issues and refuse to answer direct questions and ignore direct critiques, as you have been mostly doing with me. People don’t have the patience for that. It has to be a real dialogue.

Considering one Christian group tells me “that particular Christian group” is wrong, yet “that particular Christian group” tells me the first Christian Group is wrong, and they ALL agree the Mormon Christian group is wrong. The Calvinists tell me the non-Calvinist group is wrong; the Protestants tell me the Catholic group is wrong. The Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Charismatics…all bickering and fighting as to who the “correct” group of Christians must be.

Yes, that is a real problem, and a major reason I am Catholic, but that is not your immediate issue. That comes later. Right now you need to even be convinced of matters that all these groups (apart from rank heretics like the Mormons who reject historic Christianity) hold in common: does God exist; Who Jesus was, etc. First things first.

But in passing, note that Catholics do not claim to be the sole true or correct group. We claim to be the fullness of Christianity, but we don’t deny for a second that other Christians possess large amounts of Christian truth as well. We’re not like the anti-Catholic Protestants who ridiculously deny that we are Christians at all.

All I am looking for is a method. What method do I use to determine whom I should be dialoguing with?

At a bare minimum, If they know their faith well and can offer up halfway decent defenses of it and substantive critiques of your view. If you think I fill these criteria, dialogue with me. If you don’t, find someone else.

And of some humor to me (demonstrating you don’t know me very well)

Never said I did, so that is neither here nor there. But I can tell if you don’t know something, when I read statements on your blog that prove that.

the very people I was dialoguing with would agree with your position the Bible teaches men and women are equal. Separate…but equal. The very men I was talking with would whole-heartedly agree the Bible addresses numerous verses toward abortion. Not sure you understand Christianity I came from if you think otherwise.

Of course they did. So what? This is a problem in your thinking; not necessarily theirs.
You won’t even tell me what brand of Christian you were, Why not? Maybe you’re like the hostile guy I met at Jon’s meetings. Turns out he was a former Jehovah’s Witness. So he was never a Christian at all.

I was asking you why you think anti-abortion is not taught in the Bible. I think that is a ridiculous position to take. It couldn’t be any more untrue than it is. Keep ignoring the challenge if you must. People reading this will see who had the better argument. They can read my linked paper with the biblical data and compare that to your ignorant bald statement to the contrary and see who knows what they are talking about when it comes to the Bible on that issue.

The problem came when I stopped being convinced by their claims. THAT is the question I am asking; THAT is the method I am looking for. Why did I stop believing their arguments?

Lots of reasons, I’m sure.

What method can I use to determine why I was no longer convinced by the arguments I had heard (and employed myself) for decades previous?

I have already dealt with that. Talk about concrete issues and deal with them one-by-one.

* * *

Phil Stilwell, another former Christian, wrote:

When I was 7 years old and pleading with god every evening to make sure he had accepted my faith, I was assured by all the christians around me that I was indeed a child of god. After I was 8, I never doubted my salvation…until I actually began to doubt the coherency of the god-myth. When, as an adult, I went door-to-door witnessing and leading people to the lord on my own apart from any church program prompting me to, I was lauded as a fine example of a christian. Now I find christians claiming I was never at any time a real christian. I guess I’m too far removed from that cute 7 year old I once was. It’s rather ridiculous to watch christians desperately attempting to rewrite the histories of apostates, and their own assurances they gave those apostates when they were young. Google “reasons for my deconversion” to learn more about my apostasy.

I don’t have to do any of this, Phil. It is perfectly possible, biblically, that you were a Christian and later fell away. Lots of passages. So I say “former Christian” and speak of apostasy; that means falling away from something actually possessed in the past. “Deconversion,” likewise, refers to converting to one belief away from another. I take the report at face value. I lose nothing in doing that, anyway (from a purely tactical perspective). If you were not in fact, my argument doesn’t suffer from assuming that you were.

This particular argument is with Calvinists. Let them defend their own beliefs. I just wrote a book where I devoted more than a hundred pages refuting TULIP from the Bible. TULIP is a non-biblical tradition of men.

So if someone wants to deny that you or DagoodS or any number of atheists were ever Christians, they should at least be careful to be more precise in their terminology.

My critiques of deconversions don’t have to distort or deny what anyone was before at all. I ain’t fightin’ straw men, but [self-reports about] “former men.” Thus, I am now analyzing what DagoodS says about his past Christian self, and I think I am showing that, though he was a Christian, he was an abysmally ignorant one when it came to understanding the Bible (abortion being our present test case).

So I am taking him at his word and critiquing what he himself tells me he thought as a Christian, and I’m showing that the seeds of his apostasy were already quite apparent. Like I said, if I had known him then, I could have easily posited a real possibility of his falling away, because he wasn’t grounded firmly enough. He didn’t know his apologetics; nor did he know how to properly exegete the Bible. This is what I invariably discover when analyzing deconversion accounts. If it is not the case with you, it’ll be the first time, and I’ll congratulate you for being a pioneer and will buy you a cigar and bottle of wine (being the wine-bibbing Catholic that I am).

Wrong thoughts, bad logic, lack of acqaintance with relevant facts: all of these can eventually cause a lack of faith, or erode a real, true faith, because the mind is always involved in the overall equation. This is why truth and true doctrine (and apologetics) are supremely important. The soul or the heart cannot rejoice and abide by what the mind rejects as false.


DagoodS said...

Dave Armstrong,

Let’s try something different. I’ll start where we agree and then move to areas we may not.

You state, “…[the Bible] forbids murder of persons.” I quite agree.

You also state, “It [the Bible] defines the preborn child as indeed human and a person…”

I am not persuaded this is necessarily true, however I agree that if one defines life (or personhood or humanity—whatever word you choose to use) to start at conception, one can use verses to support that argument.

In other words, I agree the Bible condemns murder of humans. And I agree one could use verses referring to fetuses, and events surrounding fetuses, to imply the fetus carries the characteristics of being human, as well as the rights thereof. And by combining those two concepts, one could reasonably argue the Bible condemns abortion.


There are a few sticking points that cause me concern. Primarily the approach. If one first concludes life starts at conception, and then looks for support (a top-down method), they can find biblical support. But if one starts with the data to then derive a conclusion (a bottom-up method) it is not nearly as clear. I’ll address individual concerns:

Poetic Inferences

“Psalm 139:15 says babies are made underground. That’s not true. The Bible is false.”

Okay, Okay, I’m not really claiming that; but what would your response be if I did? You would (I presume) correctly note this is poetic literature, and not meant to be literally read. The Psalmist didn’t mean people were literally sharpening their tongues (Ps. 139:3) or had poison on their lips; the Psalmist is using symbolic language to convey a meaning.

To claim a “contradiction” by literally applying poetic symbolism is an atrocious exegesis.

In the same way, we need to be careful to avoid the same error by using poetry to make literal claims—that somehow a fetus obtains humanity by reference within poetry. Job 38:7 says stars have mouths and Job 38:8 says the sea has a womb. Do we grant stars and the sea to have actual human characteristics because poetry ascribes it certain attributes? Of course not.

Again, one could certainly use these verses to bolster the argument a fetus has special significance—I just don’t see the verses themselves making the argument.


DagoodS said...

When does life start?

Ancient Near East had a different concept of gestation due to the influence of an agricultural society. They understood one plants a seed under dirt. Waits a bit. And a plant begins to grow right where the seed was. Since the seed disappeared, and they weren’t stupid, they understood the plant came from the seed.

In the same way, a man ejaculates into a woman. After a bit, she starts to swell with the “plant” or baby growing inside. Eventually the baby breaks the surface, and is born. It was reasoned--just like a plant--the man planted a seed; it grew in the female, and then came forth.

What was not clear was when life particularly started. The Bible repeatedly refers to life=breath. No breath; no life. Life; breath. I wrote on it here. While I think an argument can be made that the Bible indicates life begins at conception, I think equally an argument could be made the Bible states life begins with breath. A slightly better argument, in fact.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the actual authors to interview as to their meaning. Yes, one can use the top-down approach, first concluding life begins at conception and then finding verses to support it. But equally one could use the same method and first conclude life begins with breath and equally find verses to support it.

I wonder whether the method is the correct one to use.

Of course the Greek philosophers concentrated on when ensoulment happened, arriving at 40 days after conception for boys and 90 days after conception for girls


Dave Armstrong said...

The Bible on life beginning at conception (RSV):

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

[What was conceived was David ("me"). As soon as he began to exist, he had iniquity (original sin)]

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

[What was "formed" was indeed Jeremiah. That takes it right back to the very beginning. The Jews may not have known their biology, but God knew about it. But the Jews could say, "God formed me" without knowing all the details. Now, if God knew Jeremiah even before he was conceived, he could hardly have not been Jeremiah when he was conceived, as if he existed more so before he was conceived than after. Therefore, he was a person from the instant of his conception]

Numbers 5:28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

Isaiah 49:5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, . . .

Luke 1:36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.

Dave Armstrong said...

In the same way, we need to be careful to avoid the same error by using poetry to make literal claims

Psalms is not without many literal utterances, too. After all, even poetry cannot exist without real, literal things that are the subject of the poetry.

But it is easy to determine what is meant to be literal by simple cross-referencing. If a passage (about preborns, in our discussion) in the Psalms can be cross-referenced in other biblical literature that is not primarily poetic, then we can safely assume that it is meant to be taken literally.

In any event, the biblical argument does not rest on just the Psalms, anyway, by a long shot.

You can try this argument, but it fails, and there are still scores more passages you have to explain (away).

Dave Armstrong said...

“Psalm 139:15 says babies are made underground. That’s not true. The Bible is false.”

Okay, Okay, I’m not really claiming that; but what would your response be if I did?

According to the great Lutheran Hebraist scholar Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890):

As Adam was formed from the earth, so "the mother's womb out of which the child of Adam comes forth is the earth out of which it is taken."

So sure, it is a poetic expression, but it refers to literal things, just as poetic expressions of love ultimately refer to real things: the woman we love.

Just because something has a poetic element does not automatically, intrinsically exclude literal referents.

You can concentrate on this sort of detail, but it doesn't overcome the overall thrust of the passage. It teaches that God formed every person, and that they were human and persons from conception:

Psalm 139:13-16 For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

From our biological knowledge now, we know that a new person is formed as soon as the DNA of his or her two parents is combined. That is when a new person begins. We know that. It's undeniable. There is no other non-arbitrary starting point. The Jews didn't, but when they are referring to God forming and knitting together this "thing" in the womb, they referred to "it" as "me"; therefore they obviously thought of "it" as a person; a human being; identical with the same "biological entity" that it developed into after "it" was born. Thus, Mary was "with child" etc.

There is not the slightest question about any of this.

DagoodS said...

Arggg! Looks like stupid Blogspot ate the last argument. I will try to re-post it.

As wonderful as computers can be…

Dave Armstrong said...

Save everything before you post!

The Bible supports the fact that human life and persons begin at conception. It’s not a prior assumption merely eisegeted into the Bible. It’s really there. That’s why the Church Fathers condemned abortion and all Christian traditions did as well until 40-50 years ago or so when many liberal denominations began caving into the secularist zeitgeist. There is a reason for that. It is because this is what the Bible had always taught.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dave you wrote:

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

[What was conceived was David ("me"). As soon as he began to exist, he had iniquity (original sin)]

RESPONSE: The "I" and "me" of a blastula that is capable of splitting into twins or reabsorbed back into a remaining twin, is not the "I" and "me" of the adult that comes much later. The zygote, blastula, etc., knows nothing. Do you remember "yourself" before you were even conceived? Do you have memories of being a zygote, then a blastula? Neither did the ancient Hebrews know anything of that sort of thing.

Neither were they interested in when brain activity began or when such activity became organized in various stages. But we know more about such matters today, and debate the abortion question.

Neither do we impute "sin" to every human starting at conception. Nor do we impute that some "fall" in the past has something to do with pain and death to all animals.

Second, the Psalmist is abasing himself by claiming he was a sinner starting as early as conception [NIV trans] "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."

Self abasement is something you did before approaching a king back then, you even used hyperbole as to how bad or wrong you were, and how right the king was, to further contrast whatever action it is that you are seeking forgiveness for, so that the king sees you're repentant and grants you your wish. The more abasement the better.

The psalmist seeks mercy/forgiveness for things done in THIS life, but casts his sins back in time hyperbolically, thus lowering himself even further before asking for mercy, by declaring his "sinfulness" even while in the womb, NIV:

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dave, Other scriptures that you cite show only that they believed in God's foreknowledge of specific prophets He was sending. That's what they believed.

They also believed that God could send lightning bolts, his voice was thunder, he moved clouds, sent famines, plagues, armies, and that if a nation did not worship Him properly -- by not setting up temples, sacrificing animals, etc., that led to bad things happening, which is exactly what the nations around Israel also believed concerning their own gods, and the necessity of temples and sacrifices. Go here

and click on Israel's theological worldview, a chapter that's online from the book, Disturbing divine behavior: troubling Old Testament images of God by Eric A. Seibert

Edward T. Babinski said...

Furthermore, regardless of ancient Greek practices in which unwanted children were left in jars for others to pick up or die, or thrown into a ravine like the Spartans did to children with birth defects, in ancient Mesopotamia (which was nearer to ancient Israel than Greece), the had both recipies for abortion and laws against women doing it to themselves or being beaten up and forced to abort by a man. In fact one Mesopotamian law is clearer than any found in the Bible, so it's a wonder why God couldn't have explained such a thing Himself in the Hebrew Bible if He really wanted to clarify matters.

See M. Stol, Birth in Babylonia and the Bible (Brill/Styx, 2000), 39-48.

That I read about here:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Lastly, there's plenty of cases in the Bible in which God makes exceptions for His "no abortion rule" (if that's what it is, though I have my doubts).

Whenever God kills masses of people by directing famines, diseases, floods, hail, earthquakes, invading armies, whatever, some of those He is directing his wrath at are pregnant women. Of course that's mass murder, not "abortion" we're talking about. But there is no concern shown for adults OR fetuses in such cases, no exceptions. God is an equal opportunity slaughterer and shows no "favor to the unborn."

Same with other laws in the OT regarding sexual activities of women that might very well have involved her conceiving a child. The child's life is never of any concern, the women are executed without waiting to see if they had been carrying a child or not.

It's of more concern to execute adult women in such cases than show concern for the unborn.

The Bible mentions nothing about the fertilized egg cell's right to life in cases of rape (i.e., if a woman fails to cry out while being raped within earshot of the city she is to be stoned to death--and no exceptions are mentioned in cases of the woman having been brutalized and half conscious or raped with a knife to her throat); nor in cases of a woman caught committing adultery; nor in cases of a newly married woman whose husband discovers on their wedding night that her hymen is not intact and that his exertions left no blood on the sheet. In all such cases the woman is to be stoned to death. She might have become pregnant after being raped, or after being caught caught committing adultery, or after having sex with her new husband on their wedding night. There's even a biblical test* for an accused female adulterer in which she is to drink water mixed with dust and, if she is an adulterer, her "thigh" is supposed to "rot away" (the "thigh" being a euphemism in this case for the female's sexual organs), which would again, kill any fetus. (*There are no such tests for a male adulterer, only a female one.)

In fact the O.T. Bible demonizes children who result from illicit unions, calling them bastards, and adding that they shall not enter unto the congregation of the Lord. No fault of the child of course for it had nothing to do with being born a bastard. That's OT justice for you.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Did I say "lastly?"

We ought to return to my first post, the discussion of "abasement hyperbole" in Psalm 51.

That Psalm only mentions that the psalmist himself was a sinner in the womb, not that everyone is.

In fact other places in the Bible it speaks only about SOME but not all people being born wicked. I guess such statements were made before the Christian doctrine of "original sin" declared that everyone is "wicked" from the womb:

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born... let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
- Psalm 58:3,8

As for Israel, their glory shall fly away like a bird, and from the womb, and from the conception... Give them, O Lord: what will Thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts... they shall bear no fruit...
- Hosea 9:11-16
Notice that the prophet Hosea is pleading with his God to punish the Israelites by murdering their unborn babies.

Their fruit shalt Thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.
- Psalm 21:10

Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking a third time about "abasement hyperbole in Ps. 51," there are also reverse hyperbolic statements found in the Bible, not about "sinning in the womb," but about how it's "better never to have been born at all, or have been miscarried." Even the book of Jeremiah employs such hyperbole. There are verses you're not likely to ever see quoted on signs as a pro-life rally:

Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
- Jeremiah 20:14-18

[This is the only Biblical passage that directly and indisputably mentions a practice that we would today think of as “abortion,” but notice, Jeremiah is cursing a man for NOT aborting the fetal Jeremiah.]

Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.
- Job 3:16-19

If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
- Ecclesiastes 6:3-5

Edward T. Babinski said...


Starting with Jeremiah

...saith the Lord: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them… A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed. With thee will I [the LORD] break in pieces the young man and the maid. [even a pregnant young maiden?]
- Jeremiah 13:14; 48:10; 51:22

Thus saith the LORD...Slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
- 1 Samuel 15:3

Joshua destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD commanded.
- Joshua 10:40

The LORD delivered them before us; and we destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones.
- Deuteronomy 2:33-34

Kill every male among the little ones.
- Numbers 31:17

The wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and...Samaria shall become desolate...they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
- Hosea 13:15-16

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
- Psalm 137:9

Every living thing on the earth was drowned [by the Hebrew LORD--which included pregnant women and babies]...Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
- Genesis 7:23

Not to mention all the times Yahweh sent famines that dried up a mother's breasts causing her children to starve to death, or even when Yahweh boasted that he would curse His own people if they disobeyed Him by forcing fathers and mothers to eat their own children.

Edward T. Babinski said...


Abortion as such is not discussed in the Bible, so any explanation of why it is not legislated or commented on is speculative.

A key text for examining ancient Israelite attitudes [toward the fetus] is Exodus 21:22-25: “When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Several observations can be made about this passage.

The Hebrew text at v. 22 literally reads “and there is no harm,” implying that contrary to current sensibilities, the miscarriage itself was not considered serious injury. The monetary judgment given to the woman’s husband indicates that the woman’s experience of the miscarriage is not of significance, and that the damage is considered one to property rather than to human life. This latter observation is further supported by the contrast with the penalties for harm to the woman herself.

Drorah O’Donnell Setel, “Abortion,” The Oxford Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible, ed. by Bruce Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Oxford University Press, 2001)

There is no biblical proof-text against abortion. Deuteronomy 30:19 (“choose life”) has nothing to do with abortion; it has to do with being party to God’s covenant with Israel. Psalm 139:13-18 is less relevant to the issue than most people think; a careful reading of that psalm reveals that the “mother” in whose “womb” the psalmist was known by God is Mother Earth (notice the parallelism between “my mother’s womb” and “the depths of the earth” in the inclusio of vv. 13-15). Exodus 21 is very difficult, but it certainly does not speak directly to abortion; at most, it relates to an accidentally induced miscarriage, though it may refer to a premature birth. That interpretive decision is crucial, and I’m not sure how to resolve it. As far as I can tell, the only biblical passage that I know of that directly mentions a practice like we would think of as abortion curses a man who did not practice it on the fetal Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:16-18). Now, having said that, I hasten to repeat that my general default position is anti-abortion (I am willing to listen to arguments on specific cases, though I’ve never had any input into a specific case), and I think a biblical case can be made for an anti-abortion position. But it must be a cumulative theological case, not a list of proof-texts--for there are no such proof-texts.

Dr. R. Christopher Heard [Old Testament professor at Pepperdine University, lifelong member of Churches of Christ], “Is the Bible Anti-Abortion?” at his blog, Higgaion, Friday, November 18, 2005

Edward T. Babinski said...


Jesus was not concerned about abortion but about salvation. He even said "Do not fear him who can kill the body, but him who can cast both body and soul into hell." (And as for praying in public outside abortion clinics, I don't suppose Jesus would have been into that much either, based on his statement that it was better to pray inside one's closet.)

Paul, mentioned in 1 Cor. that "many among you are sick and some have fallen asleep [died]" because they celebrated the Lord's supper in an unworthy fashion. It does not say whether those people were male or female, pregnant or not pregnant, the main thing was that Paul believed God made fellow believers sick or even killed them if their actions displeased him.

There was also a Christian couple in Acts, members of the early church, whom Peter scolded for lying about "giving all they had to the church." The couple dies instantly via some supernatural judgment. In a similarly harsh fashion Paul commands certain people with views he found lacking to be cursed and called "anathema" and cast out of the church and probably shunned in public as well by their former brethren, so that such people's "flesh may be destroyed by Satan." All harsh sounding stuff, and not the way most preachers interpret illness or deaths in their own churches, and not the kinds of curses they lay on the congregation today.

At any rate "abortion" is never as high a priority as the issue of salvation and right doctrine. The same goes for the O.T. which features commands like, "He who does not obey the priest shall die [be put to death]," and, "Anyone who entices you to follow after other gods shall die [be put to death]," and it doesn't matter if the person doing the enticing is pregnant or not.

Ah, the good old days, when God fearing people in BOTH THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS had higher priorities than “saving fetal lives.” They were too busy stoning whomever enticed them to worship other gods, stoning adulteresses, stoning women who weren’t virgins on their wedding night, stoning women who “failed to cry out” during rape, and stoning sassy children to worry about “the fate of fetuses.”

Even in the NT God is sending illness and death to Christians, or having his ministers curse people, calling them anathema and turning them over to Satan for the sake of their salvation above all. In other words they were too busy with all of those higher priorities to worry much about “the fate of fetuses.”

DagoodS said...

Weird. I have posted my final argument three (3) times and it shows up as a post…but then disappears. Is it in spam? I’ll try once more.

DagoodS said...

The Missing Post:

Intentional termination of Pregnancy

Here is the crux of the matter. There are no biblical verses explicitly condemning intentional termination of pregnancy. You mention 100 passages “having to do with abortion in many of its aspects.” Great! Out of those 100—give us one (1) that says explicitly states, “Don’t have an abortion.”

(I didn’t respond to all 100 passages, which will probably disappoint you. I concentrate on passages that have to do with abortion—intentional termination of pregnancy. Not verses that mention someone is pregnant. Not verses referring to infanticide. In my opinion, by listing verses such as Gen. 25:21, stating “Rebekah became pregnant” as having to do with abortion only weakens the argument. Makes it look like the person is reaching; if this is what they rely upon to get to some magical number like “100.”)

Again (because I fear this will get lost) one can infer it from combining other passages—I am asking for one statement directly on point.

It is important to get the background of the society where the New Testament was written. Abortions were discouraged, but not illegal in Roman law. Discouraged because Augustus wanted as many Roman citizens around.

Here, take it a step further--infanticide was actively practiced! If one had the power, through pater familias to decide if a born child lived or died, we can understand why there would be little to less concern whether an unborn child lived. The head of the family had the right to be presented with every child born within the household. (This would include servant’s children, grandchildren, etc.) If he decided to not keep the child, it would be placed outside the house.

Now, most times the child would be picked up and raised by someone else, but that was not necessarily expected. The child could die, and Roman society was perfectly acceptable with that.

Within such a world, you could see why abortion could be actively practiced when it comes to concern over life. (As it was, they may not have had many abortions, because infant mortality was so high, and people did want to promulgate their family.) Roman attitude and laws toward abortion. (pdf)

I point this out, because the New Testament writings were generated within this very society, yet they don’t say a word condemning abortion. (Or the infanticide, either.) One could argue it was not mentioned because the option was not available to Christians…


We have the Epistle of Barnabas (75 – 125 CE) written the same time as many of the New Testament writings. An epistle that explicitly states, at Barnabas 19:5, “Don’t murder a child by abortion*, nor again kill it after it is born.”

*Technically phthora was a drink that caused abortion.

Further, the Didache (40-120 CE) writing the same thing at 2.2. (The Greek is the exact same and the Didache replicates Barnabas on numerous statements, so it is reasonable to conclude one copied the other.)

These writings occurred in a time where abortion and infanticide were legal and practiced within the society. Non-canonical Christian writings directly addressed abortion—condemning it. Yet the canonical writings of the Bible are silent.

Finally, we should note this article on the historical fluctuations regarding abortion in the early church.

DagoodS said...

I see the Missing Post. Does anyone else? Is it a ghost?

Dave Armstrong said...

Oh okay (I've been busy today working on getting a possible new job). It is probably the automatic Blogger spam filter. I'll go take a look.

Sometimes it makes little sense, though, what it decides is "spam."

Dave Armstrong said...

Yep, that was it. I have "okayed" your missing post and one by Ed B. They're up now.

Sorry; I should have thought of that earlier, but after what you said today I realized it was the filter wreaking havoc again. It takes out some real spam but also stuff that isn't. I don't know what the criterion is.

There was a funny incident when one anti-Catholic Protestant guy saw his post was missing and accused me of deliberately removing it, to hide it and so forth. Sure enough it was the filter. I proved that, but it made no difference. He never retracted all his stupid remarks that he had made.

Meanwhile, I have some pressing things I need to do before I try to answer this mountain of material. I think I'll be able to at least start some reply later today sometime. I certainly can't go down all the usual rabbit trails of how wicked God supposedly is, etc., that have been answered already in other papers.

The immediate discussion was about what the Bible taught about the beginning of life and I won't be swayed from that until we achieve some remote resolution to that debate.

The "go in a 100 directions at once with garden variety polemics" routine doesn't work with me. I've been around the dialogical block many times by now . . . :-)

Dave Armstrong said...

Since DagoodS has completely, systematically avoided my biblical arguments, I will ignore his latest. There is nothing new or of note there, anyway.

It remains rather self-evident that the Bible condemns abortion in the fashion that I have described. Human beings are conceived by God and are regarded as persons from the beginning, and not to be murdered, just like any other person. There doesn't have to be a statement specifically about abortion because it is included in the broader condemnations of murder already. It is unreasonable to demand it, but it's all DagoodS has in his quixotic toy arsenal, I guess.

At least Babinski made a few arguments (though he avoids the obvious as much as he can, too). I'll take a look at those.

DagoodS said...

Dave Armstrong,

Frankly, I was not that interested in this discussion as it was. My viewpoints regarding exegetical arguments on abortion are not exactly riveting. I only commented out of courtesy to you, because you seemed so fired-up about it. You are free to reply or not. It is the internet, after all.

Alas, I am not terribly surprised at the lack of charity towards understanding the point I am making.

I hope you find employment soon, and wish you a very Merry Christmas, Dave Armstrong.

Dave Armstrong said...

Frankly, I was not that interested in this discussion as it was.

That would explain the lack of interaction with my arguments! We all have our interests. I understand that.

My viewpoints regarding exegetical arguments on abortion are not exactly riveting. I only commented out of courtesy to you, because you seemed so fired-up about it.

Okay. My perspective was that it was an illustrative test case of how a Christian loses his way, in misunderstanding biblical teaching (which, in this area, remains quite clear, in my opinion).

Thanks for your holiday greetings. I wish you the same (if you celebrate in some fashion).

Thanks also for the job wishes. I actually have a good prospect already that I am hopeful about.

I have nothing personally against you. My task as an apologist is to offer counter- arguments and show that the arguments against Christianity and the traditional interpretation of the Bible do not succeed.

I will probably challenge other exegetical arguments of yours that you are more interested in, in the near future, time-permitting.