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The Third Epistle of John

 
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Mighara Sovmadhi
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:12 am    Post subject: The Third Epistle of John Reply with quote

As an outsider to the religion, raised by atheistic/agnostic parents with an unbelieving brother and lukewarm, if that, extended family, I always perceived the claim that the Bible is the Word of God as equivalent in meaning, except for the book referred to, as an assertion that the Quran (for example) is. I knew it was a compilation, not transcribed by one person, but I didn't really understand how it was put together (except at a council!) or what it actually contains.

Because if I had, I would have thought even more that there is no way this book is the unique Word of God.

Why do I say this? Well, have you ever read 3 John? There's no doctrine in it at all and it doesn't even use the words "Jesus" or "Christ." It is more like a field report for local missionary activity. Now, if the Bible is the Word of God and all-inspired, then we are claiming that God revealed--even if through inspiration--the sequence of events recounted in the letter. Revealed this, that is, first to the very author of the letter. But... why? He never says, "Oh, somehow I have amnesia about this random situation but heyo, presto, God just gave me all my memories of it back!" Of course he never says anything like this at all.

Now, consider the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. The author presents the ensuing document as a report on an investigation he did. Not, that is, as a text channeled from God by the power of the Holy Spirit (the literal semantics for "inspiration"). He might indeed assert or imply, somehow, such power in some passages. But the gist of this gospel at its outset is that it is a summary of information gathered together, not manifested all at once or (relatively) continuously in some mystical session.

The Gospel of John includes remarks of a relevantly similar sort, e.g. (off the topic of my head) the thing about the presentation of cases, out of a larger possible set that could exceed all the books in the world (hyperbolically speaking), being so "that you might believe" (IIRC).

Then there's the Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon. And Ecclesiastes. And Tobit. Well, Tobit gives the Catholics some of their queer doctrines, sort of, but other than that it is, well, a fairy tale about a demon and a woman and an angel and a dog I think, and some fish-magic or something, and a host of dead husbands and one living hero of a man in the end--and after all of that is said and done some diatribe about Nineveh.

Accordingly, it appears nearly, or virtually, certain to me, that the Bible did not arise out of God teleporting thoughts/sentences into people's heads. Or, more to the point, it could not so arise. Its internal constitution is such that it explicitly says, in fact, that it is not the inspired Word of God altogether or in itself. If anything, it includes such inspiration without automatically exhausting it; but moreover not all that it includes is so blessed, let us suppose. (Blessed in other ways, yes.) Now, it might be that the whole book, once assembled, was accompanied in its presence by a seal of belief, that is, at the conciliar declarations of the book's canonical forms, the Holy Spirit specially interceded and caused the conciliar delegates to believe in the book. Thus that it is the Word of God would follow from, "Belief in it was spontaneously inspired by God," but not that it was actually written, originally, to express God's thoughts in a revealing way. This means, though, that if humanity had come up with (at that point in time) some other version of the book to have faith in, either God would not have sealed belief in such a book or, as Protestantism might wish of its reduction of the canon, He really has done so anyway after all. Either these things, or God simply prearranged history so that this book would exist in order to be sealed by Him at some time.

But now even so how does God seal something as His Word? There is a mistake in jumping from "everything in the Bible is inspired" to "everything in the Bible is true." We might hope that God does not lie, but do we know this? (I, personally, doubt that I know this. In fact I suspect I know the opposite; and I don't mean that on grounds of obscure passages from the Bible that seem to show God deceiving people.) So lastly, even if it could be readily perceived that the Bible represented the beliefs God directly emphasizes for us, it would not be known in that that these beliefs are also true.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For deists it is the world rather than the Bible that is the word of God made explicit - and this for me, has always been a stronger source of evidence.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I certainly don't have the definitive answer although I do believe that the Bible is uniquely the Word of God... but I would like to clear up a common misconception (popularized in the last several years by The DaVinci Code) that Church councils sat around and hashed out what was and wasn't the inspired Word. In fact, the books accepted as canon were already popularly accepted by Church leaders, with (unavoidably) some, but not much, divergence. The Councils (Nicene, etc) merely put their official stamp of approval on what was already pretty much encoded.

Quote:
Its internal constitution is such that it explicitly says, in fact, that it is not the inspired Word of God altogether or in itself.

Some take the statement at the end of Revelation as such:
St John wrote:
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;
and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The early Church was beset with people wanting to make their own personal spinoff of Christianity and mix it with Judaic and Greco-Roman mysticism; I would say these words are said against that tendency to play fast and loose with prophecy and revelation. As for your statement that the Bible may not contain the whole set of what is inspired, many Christians would shudder at that idea but I had an extremely conservative, Dispensationalist Bible College prof who confessed that he speculated that there could be more of it coming, when all contained in it now prophetically has come to pass... who knows?

I just love that God chose a book to transmit what is sufficient for knowledge of him to humanity. #1 Books are awesome. #2 Books are everywhere; there is nothing about A Book to make it stand out unless you pay particular attention. #3 Books are common as dust to the prosperous, precious to the poor. And Christ was most interested in the poor, wasn't he.

There is a story that illustrates how low God is willing to stoop in order to reach someone with his word. A POW in (I think) Northern Vietnam, a Christian, was subjected 24/7 to Communist brainwashing. After over a year of this he was ready to cave in and give up his faith in God. So he prayed, Lord, if you are real and want me to believe in you, I need something because I have reached the end.
The next day he was put on $hit detail-- cleaning out the officer's latrine. Embedded in excrement, he saw a page of reading material. Desperate for anything that wasn't Communist propaganda, he secreted it and later washed it. The page was from Romans, chapter 8.
Quote:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(NKJV)


This was, of course, what he needed. After that he volunteered for poop detail until he had collected quite a number of Bible pages that officers were using for toilet paper. I love this story because God wasn't above allowing his Sacred Holy Word to be used as tp in order to reach a person crying out for something.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:37 am    Post subject: Re: The Third Epistle of John Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
We might hope that God does not lie, but do we know this?


God is incapable of lies. 1 John 4:7-12 - God Is Love
But unfortunately this cannot exclude lies what do lurk within the Word of God.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@dotd, the referent of "this book" in the Johannine apocalypse is not the entire Bible, it is only the Johannine text itself. The Bible had not been compiled when the Patmosian John wrote down his visions.

@Rune, well, don't liars often claim not to lie? Besides, there is nothing incoherent or unintelligible about a being having ultimate power over physical reality while being capable of deception; indeed deceiving is, for us, a physical event, so if a being was unable to lie to us, would we be able to perceive it as the Almighty? (On a more personal note, though this evidence holds only for me or for people who have personal reasons to lend credence to such a remark: I suspect that God talks to everyone, all of the time, that the Book of Reason, so to speak, is the actual Word of God; but not everyone listens to this; and yet then there was this time in my life, only a few months ago, when I listened as carefully as possible to the slew of words forming in my mind, while I looked around me and saw the city I was in (Chicago) erupt with pillars of light from every quarter; and in the words a promise was made that was broken by the end of the day; so I had to conclude that God had directly lied to me, and I ended up thinking this on the grounds that I'm historically/temperamentally liberal-Jewish in character, and God is such a wicked being that the people who have worshiped Him the longest are the ones He holds in perhaps the greatest contempt, so that just as He let millions of them die writhing in horror in the gas chambers, so He was ready to let me die by suicide in that city, out of despair at what He had done; but I persevered, for I am not only sort of Jewish but Christian, too, wherefore I attributed the deception at hand to the First Person of the Trinity, with the Son and the Spirit innocent of the lie on that day and night.)
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, @dotd, I can see providence in the story of the POW, and yet in my own life, I have encountered so many books that resembled answers to similar prayers that I have had to conclude that God predestined me to read all those books just whenever I came across them---that His message was in those coincidences---so for me it would never be necessary to defer to just one possible book.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
@Rune, well, don't liars often claim not to lie?
Exactly. It's what teaches us to trust our self.
Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
(On a more personal note ... He was ready to let me die by suicide in that city, out of despair at what He had done; but I persevered ... )
I'm glad. I had an idea that was what your avatar meant.
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The universe will expand, then it will collapse back on itself, then will expand again. It will repeat this process forever. What you don't know is that when the universe expands again, everything will be as it is now. Whatever mistakes you make this time around, you will live through on your next pass. Every mistake you make, you will live through again, & again, forever. So my advice to you is to get it right this time around. Because this time is all you have.

- - Prot
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eternal recurrence... Something I've worried about a lot haha.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:53 pm    Post subject: Re: The Third Epistle of John Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
Now, if the Bible is the Word of God and all-inspired, then we are claiming that God revealed--even if through inspiration--the sequence of events recounted in the letter.

Is that really what "we're" claiming? Maybe this is the premise which needs questioning.

Why would God have to reveal an event -- a spatio-temporal conflux? Why would God have to reveal something which already takes place in the bright daylight of mundanity -- in the free, open, and accessible "book of History"?

And, on the assumption that there is a sense in which one can assert that God "revealed an event", what would this even mean?
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose we could rephrase the issue like so: "All scripture is God-breathed," or so some translations of one of the epistles go. God-breathed = inspired. Now the epistle was presumably referring to the Septuagint or some such document, not the modern codex with the epistolary section added in. But like the "this book" in the Johannine revelation, it has been used to refer to the entire Bible as we more or less now know it.

So, if this is true, then 3 John is inspired too. Now, maybe this is true. Maybe the author of it wouldn't have felt like writing the letter had not the Spirit moved him so. And maybe his choice of words was chosen by the Spirit. But now I am reminded of a Muslim argument I came across recently, to the effect that, "Book X is inspired," does meant imply, "Book X is revelation." Now that tells against my initial critique but helps broaden it, though, because now the question is, well, did God really only inspire the Bible? But let us suppose that there have been many Christian writers throughout history. In theory, their works are actually the works of Christ and the Spirit, in them. So whenever they write, as long as it is in the right context, then their works are inspired by the inner Word of God for them.

Of course Catholics solve this problem pretty neatly with the distinction between public and private revelation. And now we go back to the Muslim distinction: so is the Bible the only document in which public revelation is inscripturated? And if so, how do we know this? Perhaps we have a special feeling come over us when we read parts of it, and we never have this feeling reading anything else (though Mormons will cry foul, aren't they devoted to asking people to "feel for" the truth of their special founding book?). But the idea that "the Bible is self-attesting" (something I've read, and read the analysis of, in two books recently provided to me by another member of the site) seems... incomplete. The book as a whole can only refer to itself in total if there is a prophecy somewhere in it to the effect that the whole compilation will ever exist; but I don't think there's a prophecy in any of it to the effect that such a compilation will exist and will include a letter devoid of doctrinal content and a piece of investigative journalism (so to speak) by Dr. Luke, etc.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keep in mind, I guess, that I do think the Bible is scripture. However, the more particular belief of mine is more like, it's part of scripture. There is this epic story behind everything, and it takes God's intercession for us to be aware of it, and much of it we can read of in the Bible, but perhaps not all of it. Why is this so? Well, I don't see a complete human reason for the Bible in the first place, not so much anyway, so a human argument won't explain the thing well enough, maybe. It's somewhat odd to consider that humans have been around for scores of thousands/hundreds of thousands/maybe millions? of years, and only within the last 2000 has He finally decided to provide His world with a specific set of instructions in written form. What did He do before then? Why did He only start inspiring parts of the Bible 3000 years ago (in theory)? IDK... But, "The Bible is what it is so that God's message is clear to all, so that it is easy to learn the plan of salvation from," is obviously false, then, as it has rarely existed for anyone until recently (so it's not clear "to all"), and those for whom it does exist do not perceive it with altogether reliable clarity.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
Eternal recurrence... Something I've worried about a lot haha.


If Prot is correct, the bottleneck in the expanding/collapsing universe is simply the beating Heart of God - the eternal source of all life.
So I wouldn't worry. It's unavoidable.
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