Christians v. Intelligent Design: Featured: George Coyne

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George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and formed director of the Vatican Observatory has never hidden his dislike of “Intelligent Design”. Father Coyne holds a doctorate in astronomy from Georgetown University as well as a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Fordham University.

Father Coyne also has spoken out strongly against Cardinal Schoenborn’s comments on evolutionary theory.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn claims random evolution is incompatible with belief in a creator God. Here, in an exclusive rebuttal of that view, the Vatican’s chief astronomer says that science reflects God’s infinite purpose

I discussed Coyne’s position in 2006

Coyne, has a fascinating perspective on faith and science. First of all he is upfront that his faith comes from his parents education as well as the people who surrounded him. He also finds that science gives his faith a new dimension but he is also clear that science does not lead him God.

QUESTION: Father Coyne, has there been a conflict in your life in resolving your interest in science with your religious calling?

FATHER COYNE: I must honestly say, for me very personally, it’s never been a conflict, in fact, far from it. The two have been very supportive. Let me say a word about it, though, because it’s been my personal history, that my science has never led me to believe, to have faith. I haven’t come to believe because I have convinced myself it was the right thing to do by doing science. Far from it, faith to me is a gift, which I willingly received as a little child, and then questioned as I grew up. By a gift, I mean that God gave me the gift of faith. I don’t mean that in any miraculous sense, I mean through the parents who educated me, through the brothers and sisters I grew up with, the schools I went to, there was this influence upon me which was the faith, in the concrete. I accepted it, I questioned it, I grew up with it, and in the end, as a mature adult, I continue to accept it.

Now, having the faith, not having acquired it, but having been given it, as I do my science I find that it supports my faith, it enriches it, it gives it a whole new dimension. But, I have never come to know God, to see God, to believe in God through doing science. He’s not the conclusion of some sort of process of my personal scientific investigation. But, my scientific investigation, because God is reflected in the world in which me made, in some sense, my scientific investigation has always supported my belief in God in a very real sense. It helps me to pray better. I have more things to pray about, my prayer is enriched, et cetera. As a religious priest I find it a very enriching experience to do my scientific research. So far from there being any conflict, in that sense in which I explained, the scientific research, being a scientist helps to support both my life as a Jesuit and my belief in God.

More recently Coyne has come out strongly against Intelligent Design. On September 4, 2008, he gave a lecture

“I am going to, for better or worse, take on the intelligent design movement in this country,” Coyne began the lecture. “I’m not going to apologize on the statements I make.”

On the topic of “teach the controversy”, a religio-political motivated attempt to introduce the teachings of “intelligent design” into public schools, Coyne has the following to add

Coyne spoke briefly about the religious and political implications of the debate between intelligent design and evolution.

“The chasm between religious faith and scientific research is falsely created, especially in this country,” he said.

and

“You shouldn’t talk about God in a science classroom,” he said. According to Coyne, it is the parents’ duty to teach their child about God if they want, not the science teacher’s responsibility.

Finally, let me point to what I see as a very open position towards faith and science, where science informs faith, where faith should not be a restriction to do science and finally where faith goes beyond that which can be established rationally. In other words, while science can inform faith, science cannot prove or disprove faith.

FATHER COYNE: It’s a very real difficulty. There are many people who do view scientific research as alienating us from religion and from God, and when so many people do, there must be some reason for it. As a scientist I would address that in two ways. One is that at the very origins of modern science people like Isaac Newton, Descartes, and Galileo were all very religious people. So doing science is not inherently incompatible with religious faith.

However the great successes of science - Galileo’s telescopic observations, Newton’s law of gravity, etc - all of this great success caused people to sort of say, what if we could establish religion on that same successful basis? What if we could have a good rational foundation for religious belief. What if religion could be sort of like science. Of course, that can’t be. The whole dimension of religious belief requires transcendence, it requires going beyond what you can establish rationally.

Father Coyne is a voice of reason in the debates on faith and science and his word should serve as a focal point for resolving many of the unnecessary and foolish attempts to insist on science being subservient to our faith.


George Coyne at Meta-Library

Vatican astronomer rips Intelligent Design theory

97 Comments

It is amazingly refreshing to hear someone of the cloth actually say that science and religion do not have to be exclusive from each other. Even though I am an atheist, it would be an immense honor to meet Father Coyne and pick his brains over a meal.

-Azazel

While I personally am not too impressed by some of the Catholic Doctrine on women, reproductive health etc, I have much respect for many of the cloth. I went to a Catholic High School (public school) run partially by monks who not only were excellent teachers but also showed an incredible openness.

Azazel said:

It is amazingly refreshing to hear someone of the cloth actually say that science and religion do not have to be exclusive from each other. Even though I am an atheist, it would be an immense honor to meet Father Coyne and pick his brains over a meal.

-Azazel

Fr. Coyne sez:

The whole dimension of religious belief requires transcendence, it requires going beyond what you can establish rationally.

And there you have it, folks. This is why I have to agree with PZ; when it comes to religion, there’s just no there there. Does he even realize he just put his religion in the same category as unicorns and flying teapots? Not exactly science informing faith, here. More like “Just keep the science well away from teh fayth, and everything will be fine.”

Points for honesty, though.

Johnny Vector said:

Points for honesty, though.

I tend to like the idea that, as per THE SIMPSONS, the courts should issue an injunction ordering that science and religion keep at least 500 feet away from each other at all times. Whatever the differences of opinion, the fighting gets tiresome and not really worth either side’s time.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

A bit of a an oversimplification but I understand why some may come to hold your beliefs. PZ’s position is as valid as Coyne’s really, after all this is not about what can be established rationally.

Johnny Vector said:

Fr. Coyne sez:

The whole dimension of religious belief requires transcendence, it requires going beyond what you can establish rationally.

And there you have it, folks. This is why I have to agree with PZ; when it comes to religion, there’s just no there there. Does he even realize he just put his religion in the same category as unicorns and flying teapots? Not exactly science informing faith, here. More like “Just keep the science well away from teh fayth, and everything will be fine.”

Points for honesty, though.

Oh, so you don’t believe that all non-Christians are heading for hell? Because that’s what I was taught in church (Southern Baptist) and that later drove me to reject Christianity when I considered how flawed the religion is and how virtuous most non-Christians are. If irrationality gets you into heaven, then God himself is a lunatic. Sorry, my view of God is higher than that of any religion, or even that of the ID promoters. There’s not really that much difference between the ancient Judeo-Christian view of God and the pagan view, from a modern philisophical perspective. The real God MUST be better than the one of the Bible to gain my allegiance to Him.

Dale Husband (agnostic)

PvM said:

A bit of a an oversimplification but I understand why some may come to hold your beliefs. PZ’s position is as valid as Coyne’s really, after all this is not about what can be established rationally.

Johnny Vector said:

Fr. Coyne sez:

The whole dimension of religious belief requires transcendence, it requires going beyond what you can establish rationally.

And there you have it, folks. This is why I have to agree with PZ; when it comes to religion, there’s just no there there. Does he even realize he just put his religion in the same category as unicorns and flying teapots? Not exactly science informing faith, here. More like “Just keep the science well away from teh fayth, and everything will be fine.”

Points for honesty, though.

my science I find that it supports my faith,

Of course it does. That’s because for Father Coyne, no possible evidence would contradict his faith. A Big Bang reinforces his belief, but then so would a steady state or living under a dome with pinpoint lights. Evolution may reinforce his faith, but discovering a fossilized Garden of Eden would reinforce it even more.

Father Coyne certainly isn’t a voice of reason, but he’s less irrational that most believers.

Yes, the position that anyone who is not ‘born again’ or who is not a member of a church will go to hell, has been a main reason for me to reject YECism, mimicking much of Dale’s experiences.

Dale Husband said:

Oh, so you don’t believe that all non-Christians are heading for hell? Because that’s what I was taught in church (Southern Baptist) and that later drove me to reject Christianity when I considered how flawed the religion is and how virtuous most non-Christians are. If irrationality gets you into heaven, then God himself is a lunatic. Sorry, my view of God is higher than that of any religion, or even that of the ID promoters. There’s not really that much difference between the ancient Judeo-Christian view of God and the pagan view, from a modern philisophical perspective. The real God MUST be better than the one of the Bible to gain my allegiance to Him.

Dale Husband (agnostic)

PvM said:

A bit of a an oversimplification but I understand why some may come to hold your beliefs. PZ’s position is as valid as Coyne’s really, after all this is not about what can be established rationally.

Johnny Vector said:

Fr. Coyne sez:

The whole dimension of religious belief requires transcendence, it requires going beyond what you can establish rationally.

And there you have it, folks. This is why I have to agree with PZ; when it comes to religion, there’s just no there there. Does he even realize he just put his religion in the same category as unicorns and flying teapots? Not exactly science informing faith, here. More like “Just keep the science well away from teh fayth, and everything will be fine.”

Points for honesty, though.

You are correct, science should never be a reason for one’s faith, either to accept it or reject it. As such Coyne is surely a voice of reason as his clearly separates what rationality can do and what it cannot do.

What do you find so troublesome about Coyne’s position?

Greg Esres said:

my science I find that it supports my faith,

Of course it does. That’s because for Father Coyne, no possible evidence would contradict his faith. A Big Bang reinforces his belief, but then so would a steady state or living under a dome with pinpoint lights. Evolution may reinforce his faith, but discovering a fossilized Garden of Eden would reinforce it even more.

Father Coyne certainly isn’t a voice of reason, but he’s less irrational that most believers.

I disagree with that assessment, actually. The steady state theory, if it had been confirmed, would have totally debunked the notion of a Creator in a way that the Big Bang theory does not. That was the only time that the religious doctrine of Creation was under serious threat by science. Creationists who see evolution as a threat to their beliefs have a very shallow faith indeed.

In this case, it was the anti-religious bias of the scientists who came up with the steady state theory that I condemn.

Greg Esres said:

my science I find that it supports my faith,

Of course it does. That’s because for Father Coyne, no possible evidence would contradict his faith. A Big Bang reinforces his belief, but then so would a steady state or living under a dome with pinpoint lights. Evolution may reinforce his faith, but discovering a fossilized Garden of Eden would reinforce it even more.

Father Coyne certainly isn’t a voice of reason, but he’s less irrational that most believers.

As such Coyne is surely a voice of reason as his clearly separates what rationality can do and what it cannot do.

Because rationality is all there is. The decision not to use rationality requires the use of rationality, but using it poorly, either by basing the reasoning on false premises or fallacious arguments.

The false premise used by most Christians is that “faith” is a virtue. It isn’t.

Dale Husband said:

In this case, it was the anti-religious bias of the scientists who came up with the steady state theory that I condemn.

Of course, the irony is that Sir Fred Hoyle is also heavily cited by the Darwin-bashers for his “tornado in a junkyard” notion. I think his attempt to label Archaeopteryx a con job has been generally given up as a lost cause, though it still gets recycled by Darwin-bashers whose sense of discrimination is NONEXISTENT instead of merely SLIGHT.

Also ironically, I have read Darwin-bashers who claim that scientists do not like Big Bang cosmology and would prefer Steady State concepts, since Steady State would discard the creation event. Alas for this notion the Big Bang is doctrine these days and attacking it will get a near-universal annoyed response.

“We buy the Big Bang because the evidence demands it. The metaphysical issues are academic, you can read what you like into it. Believe it or not, not even the most outspoken atheists in the science community are doing science just to spite you folks.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

I disagree with that assessment, actually. The steady state theory, if it had been confirmed, would have totally debunked the notion of a Creator in a way that the Big Bang theory does not.

For you, maybe, but if you are a believer, then I doubt it. You would have found some other rationalization. But my point was to Coyne, whom you can’t speak for.

I see, you hold to the faith, that rationality is all there is. Other’s don’t, why do you believe your position has more relevance?

If faith a virtue or is it not, that strongly depends on how you see the concept of faith. Certainly Christians are quite right when they consider faith to be a virtue of course those who disagree are similarly right in claiming faith is not a virtue. Now which side is right or wrong here?

Greg Esres said:

As such Coyne is surely a voice of reason as his clearly separates what rationality can do and what it cannot do.

Because rationality is all there is. The decision not to use rationality requires the use of rationality, but using it poorly, either by basing the reasoning on false premises or fallacious arguments.

The false premise used by most Christians is that “faith” is a virtue. It isn’t.

But then neither can you? What am I missing?

Greg Esres said:

I disagree with that assessment, actually. The steady state theory, if it had been confirmed, would have totally debunked the notion of a Creator in a way that the Big Bang theory does not.

For you, maybe, but if you are a believer, then I doubt it. You would have found some other rationalization. But my point was to Coyne, whom you can’t speak for.

I see, you hold to the faith, that rationality is all there is. Others don’t, why do you believe your position has more relevance?

Because a contrary position is self-contradictory.

which side is right or wrong here?

Christians are wrong. My faith says that Zeus is creator of the Universe. That conclusion contradicts yours that God created the Universe. If God and Zeus are two different beings, then this produces a contradiction, showing that the argument is invalid.

But then neither can you? What am I missing?

I’m pointing out that the “scientists” are making ad hoc arguments. They will not state ahead of time what discoveries will disprove their belief in God. Only after something is discovered, they say “This proves God!”

Of course faith is a virtue, in the right amounts, and in the right things. If you have faith in nothing, you would have to even deny the value of the scientific method, which is based on the assumption that the laws of science discovered by it are constant. If they are not, then science itself is useless and we evolutionists would indeed not have a leg to stand on, because nothing about the natural universe could be certain, not now, nor in the past, nor in the future.

I find it amazing how Creationists say that modern science is based on Biblical concepts of God and His Creation (it wasn’t), while denying the assumption I just gave (which IS the basis of modern science)! LYING HYPOCRITES!!!

Greg Esres said:

I see, you hold to the faith, that rationality is all there is. Others don’t, why do you believe your position has more relevance?

Because a contrary position is self-contradictory.

which side is right or wrong here?

Christians are wrong. My faith says that Zeus is creator of the Universe. That conclusion contradicts yours that God created the Universe. If God and Zeus are two different beings, then this produces a contradiction, showing that the argument is invalid.

Your point being? Why could not both be true? Or one could be true and not the other. Or what if one is true for you and one is true for me, why would that lead to a contradiction? Surely we can hold different opinions without a necessary contradiction. Which if why logic, especially when poorly applied is such a poor tool.

Greg Esres said:

which side is right or wrong here?

Christians are wrong. My faith says that Zeus is creator of the Universe. That conclusion contradicts yours that God created the Universe. If God and Zeus are two different beings, then this produces a contradiction, showing that the argument is invalid.

If you were an actual devotee of Zeus, you would have known (and said) that Zeus is merely the ruler of the Universe, not the creator of the Universe, which would be the sire of Gaia, Erebus, Nyx, and Tartarus; Chaos the Unformed.

Greg Esres said:

But then neither can you? What am I missing?

I’m pointing out that the “scientists” are making ad hoc arguments. They will not state ahead of time what discoveries will disprove their belief in God. Only after something is discovered, they say “This proves God!”

That seems a bit strange. First of all, why should our knowledge about how, contradict our position about God? Why are you assuming that there is a requirement to provide what would disprove a God. Again you are applying non sensical standards and methods.

Also, your conclusion may be somewhat flawed, it is not that it proves God, it is that it is reconcilable with religious faith.

And of course, we all know that science is tentative so why should religious people be concerned about whether or not science contradicts faith, where both have such different standards?

These scientists are not making scientific arguments when they discuss faith. Simple really.

I believe it would help understanding the position before drawing ‘conclusions’ about how these people think, especially since you have no direct insight into their thoughts, and given your faith in reason as the ultimate truth, likely any attempt of insight will be doomed since you operate from a different premise.

Your point being? Why could not both be true?

You haven’t pointed out a way in which logic has been poorly applied. Both Zeus and God cannot both be creators of the Universe.

And “true for me” vs “true for you” has no meaning.

Sounds like you’re beating a retreat into post-modernism.

This push to reconcile religion and science reminded me of an interview the Washington Post did with Francis Collins in their On Faith series (link to video below). Collins criticizes people on both sides, but his criticism of atheists ticked me off. He goes on about how religious people get “caricatured” and “mischaracterized” by atheists, and complains that the portrayal of faith presented in Dawkins’ book (I assume he means The God Delusion) “is not a view of faith I recognize.” Well that may be, Francis, but it IS a view that half the country DOES recognize because they hold it: the Young Earth Creationists. The irony is that he himself is guilty of mischaracterization. If atheists were portraying an extreme fringe of believers as being the mainstream, that would be a mischaracterization. This isn’t the case. YECs in the US are fully 50% of the population, and it is these folks who are being described by Dawkins and others. I’m sure the number is actually far greater because many (most?) ID folk are just concealing - or in denial about - their real (Bible-based) beliefs.

You can find the part about atheists just into the third minute. Interestingly, he qualifies his remarks by insisting that he is talking about the views of what he calls “mature believers.” Well guess what - there are a lot of immature believers.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy[…]0303663.html

As for Father Coyne, much of what he says is simply too muddy to be intelligible. He accepted faith before he questioned it? If you’ve already accepted it, how meaningful can the “questioning” really be? “Having the faith, not having acquired it, but having been given it,…?” Does he mean acquired as in through research? He “willing” received it as a little child, not directly from God but through his parents, siblings, schools? As a little child you willing receive almost anything. I appreciate his efforts in condemning ID, and agree with some of what he says, but much makes no sense to me.

If you were an actual devotee of Zeus, you would have known (and said) that Zeus is merely the ruler of the Universe, not the creator of the Universe, which would be the sire of Gaia, Erebus, Nyx, and Tartarus; Chaos the Unformed.

This is an article of faith for me, and you therefore are a heretic. :-)

Maybe the reason why Christian scientists (and scientists of other faiths) don’t like to state what will destroy their belief in God or other higher powers because for a person to be forced to point out the boundaries of one’s own faith destroys the whole purpose of having faith in the first place. Even if some theist scientists had some particular discovery or circumstance that would negate their faith if they encountered it, did it ever occur to you that they might think it be very rude for someone to demand that they divulge it?

Greg Esres said:

But then neither can you? What am I missing?

I’m pointing out that the “scientists” are making ad hoc arguments. They will not state ahead of time what discoveries will disprove their belief in God. Only after something is discovered, they say “This proves God!”

I am not a heretic, you moron: it’s been taught to every schoolchild for thousands upon thousands of years that Chaos gave birth to Gaia, that Gaia gave birth to her husband (O)Uranus, then by (O)Uranus, Gaia gave birth to the Cyclopes, the Hecatonchires, and the Titans, and that the Titan Cronus married his sister Rhea, and had Zeus as a son, who spent his childhood in the care of Almathea and the Kouretes on the island of Crete.

So, then, please explain to me exactly how the ancient Greeks or their modern-day descendants believed that Zeus created the Universe if the Universe already existed when Zeus came into being?

Greg Esres said:

If you were an actual devotee of Zeus, you would have known (and said) that Zeus is merely the ruler of the Universe, not the creator of the Universe, which would be the sire of Gaia, Erebus, Nyx, and Tartarus; Chaos the Unformed.

This is an article of faith for me, and you therefore are a heretic. :-)

Of course faith is a virtue, in the right amounts, and in the right things. If you have faith in nothing, you would have to even deny the value of the scientific method, which is based on the assumption that the laws of science discovered by it are constant.

That really isn’t the same meaning of “faith” at all. I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow because it did yesterday, the day before, the day before that, etc, for the last few billion years. Induction alone would say that it’s a reasonable conclusion that the sun will continue to rise in the near future.

Religious faith is asking people to believe in things that have *never* been observed, and are contrary to the observed laws of the universe.

I am not a heretic, you moron: it’s been taught

I don’t give a rat’s ass what they taught school children, nor do I give a rat’s ass what you believe about Greek mythology. I’m telling you what my FAITH is and it is beyond the reach of miserable facts or rational discussion.

And it’s just a arbitrary example, as I do not really believe that Zeus exists or has ever existed.

How could you possibly think I was making a serious proposition about Zeus? Good God!

Greg Esres said:

And it’s just a arbitrary example, as I do not really believe that Zeus exists or has ever existed.

How could you possibly think I was making a serious proposition about Zeus? Good God!

If you intended mock other people’s faith by pretending to be a fact-impervious devotee, it would have helped your masquerade greatly if you didn’t make a glaring, galling mistake that even the most brain-dead, slavering fanatic would never make.

Perhaps you could have picked a better example with which to make a snarky fool out of yourself with?

And tell us again how alienating theist scientists by mocking their faith and or demanding that they divulge the circumstances of their potential apostasy will help scientists and science in general?

FL said:

Let me get this straight, Dale. YOU think it’s possible that Jesus was a serial murderer, but you want ME to answer for blasphemy (which, in Dale’s book, turns out to be the crime of calling the Bible “the Word of God”).

Simply Stated: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh no!!

Are you aware that in John 10:35, Jesus calls the Scriptures “the word of God”? So now you effectively accuse Jesus of blasphemy, Dale. That’s just great.

(Are you aware that you’ve got a judicial appointment with this guy when you pass away from this life?? We all do of course, but I think I will avoid standing next to YOU in the queue!!!)

That’s what happens when you totally don’t get reality. It’s called a delusion, FL. Jesus did NOT write anything attributed to Him in the New Testament, including John 10:35. Someone else wrote that story about Him decades after He died, so I do not blame Him for any errors, contradictions, or outright lies that may be found in any part of the Bible. If Jesus had actually written the Gospel, instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter, then you’d have a real case to promote the teachings of “Christianity” as that of Jesus. But Jesus wrote NOTHING in the New Testament, so you don’t.

Remember, God may judge you for being stupid too. He gave you a brain and it must anger Him to see you waste it on unfounded nonsense.

The most insightful thing I’ve ever heard that informs me about the relationship of faith and science came from a speech given by an atheist, Isaac Asimov, at Cleveland State in the 70s. “People are stupid. You, me, we’re all stupid.” And everything I’ve ever since observed in studying and conducting science, and in my fumbling with religion, has confirmed this observation magnificently. We didn’t even suspect that we were missing a major portion of the universe till very recently. Both extremes that claim absolute certainty, aggressive atheists and religious fundamentalists (so much alike its funny), far from bringing anyone enlightenment, are busily producing only strife and confusion. They fundamentally can not admit, ever, that all our understanding comes through the very imperfect filter of our limited powers of observation. That’s science, religion, economics, sexual preference, everything. Sorry, but science doesn’t produce absolute truth, and, sorry again, but the Bible doesn’t either. The Bible, like everything else, has to be interpreted in our imperfect minds. Get some humility. Experience suggests that we get things right more often when we pool our limited powers of observation. That’s the way science works, as a community. A community needs certain things to survive, like tolerance.

Dale Husband said:

Besides, you might be totally misreading that passage to say something it never meant. Remember, the New Testament was written mostly in Greek and translating it into English is not always a certain thing.

FL said:

After all, in the Bible, God has NEVER “let the universe go” after its creation. In fact, Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:3 tells us that not only is Jesus Christ the Creator of the Universe, but that from moment to moment, Jesus keeps this entire universe, and eeverything in it, all glued together right this very minute though his word and power. There’s no “letting it go” as per Deism.

16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.

17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

11:3a And He is the radiance of (God’s) glory and the exact representation of (God’s) nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

FL

Indeed. The linen that FL has bolded seems 1) a warning to Creationists, saying that if certain things are discovered to be certain ways, they shouldn’t say that God doesn’t approve, since Jesus upholds all things, presumably the way they are. 2) That line reads to me like “Jesus provides ontological reality to the way things are.”

FL said:

Neither the Bible, nor Christianity, nor the Catholic Catechism, are fuzzy-wuzzy Zen koans.

FL, you need to learn more about Zen. If the student gets the answer wrong, the usual response is a whack with a stick. Koans are anything but fuzzy.

FL said:

Are you aware that in John 10:35, Jesus calls the Scriptures “the word of God”?

But he doesn’t then go on to say, “and these are the books that make up scripture.” The composition of the canon, or the rules by which it is composed, are manmade. This is at the root of all forms of Christianity which believe in sola scriptura – without non-scriptural tradition there is no scriptura to be sola.

It’s worse, of course, since we can’t even say, outside of tradition, that the book of John from which you are quoting is part of the scripture, and thus to be paid attention to.

Jesus had actually written the Gospel, instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter, then you’d have a real case to promote the teachings of “Christianity” as that of Jesus. But Jesus wrote NOTHING in the New Testament, so you don’t.

Here’s why you’re wrong about that, Dale. Please read (carefully) the following explanation.

“If what Jesus said was so important…why didn’t he write it down himself?”

1. The prevalence of orality over writing in ancient society.

Today transmitting something orally is considered equal with not relaying it in a trustworthy manner, and we demand to see things “in writing” before we believe them. As hard as it may seem to believe, exactly the opposite was true in ancient times!

Ancient literacy was no higher than 10 percent at any given time, so the primary method of communication was oral. Memory capabilities were correspondingly much stronger, so that it can not be said that oral transmission was unreliable, or that because something was important, it “ought to have been written down”. Neither Jesus nor anyone else in ancient society would share this modern sentiment.

(For more on this, see here. For a full overview of the ancient view of writing as a less-trusted “supplement” to orality, see Tony Lentz, Orality and Literacy in Hellenic Greece.)

2. The role of scribes.

Related to this, the rarity of literacy made for an excellent business of scribal activity! And the paradigm of the day did NOT require that a teacher be the one writing down his own works – rather, he would hire a scribe to do it as he recited his teachings.

The role of Matthew in this regard is quite obvious and mirrors precisely the scribe/teacher relationship of Jeremiah and his faithful scribe Baruch. (And as one commentator pointed out, wouldn’t Jesus’ time have been better spent preaching and healing anyway, rather than pursuing the laborious task that writing was in those days?)

This point is further elucidated by Achtemeier in his article “Omne Verbatim Sonat” (JBL, 109, 1990, 3-27). He stresses that in antiquity the “normal mode of composition” was to dictate to a scribe.

“Dictation was recommended over writing in one’s own hand by Dio Chrysostem, and famous personages, we are told, were regularly accompanied by a slave prepared at any time to take dictation” – even if they were on horseback, or in the public baths! Though there was some disagreement on this preference (Quintillian preferred writing himself to dictation), it is clear that Jesus “doing it himself” was not a requirement.

Thus the general objection that Jesus did not write anything misses the point, because it anachronistically assumes a modern view of the importance of writing upon ancient peoples.

.…But if that is not enough (as it should be), then ask your friend this: Why didn’t Socrates write anything down himself, either?

From: Tektonics.Org http://www.tektonics.org/gk/jeswrite.html

Hope you find this helpful, Dale!

FL

FL ignores the argument, quote mines something he does not understand and avoids dealing with the real issues raised.

How more foolish can one get?

FL said:

Jesus had actually written the Gospel, instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter, then you’d have a real case to promote the teachings of “Christianity” as that of Jesus. But Jesus wrote NOTHING in the New Testament, so you don’t.

Here’s why you’re wrong about that, Dale. Please read (carefully) the following explanation.

“If what Jesus said was so important…why didn’t he write it down himself?”

1. The prevalence of orality over writing in ancient society.

Today transmitting something orally is considered equal with not relaying it in a trustworthy manner, and we demand to see things “in writing” before we believe them. As hard as it may seem to believe, exactly the opposite was true in ancient times!

Ancient literacy was no higher than 10 percent at any given time, so the primary method of communication was oral. Memory capabilities were correspondingly much stronger, so that it can not be said that oral transmission was unreliable, or that because something was important, it “ought to have been written down”. Neither Jesus nor anyone else in ancient society would share this modern sentiment.

(For more on this, see here. For a full overview of the ancient view of writing as a less-trusted “supplement” to orality, see Tony Lentz, Orality and Literacy in Hellenic Greece.)

2. The role of scribes.

Related to this, the rarity of literacy made for an excellent business of scribal activity! And the paradigm of the day did NOT require that a teacher be the one writing down his own works – rather, he would hire a scribe to do it as he recited his teachings.

The role of Matthew in this regard is quite obvious and mirrors precisely the scribe/teacher relationship of Jeremiah and his faithful scribe Baruch. (And as one commentator pointed out, wouldn’t Jesus’ time have been better spent preaching and healing anyway, rather than pursuing the laborious task that writing was in those days?)

This point is further elucidated by Achtemeier in his article “Omne Verbatim Sonat” (JBL, 109, 1990, 3-27). He stresses that in antiquity the “normal mode of composition” was to dictate to a scribe.

“Dictation was recommended over writing in one’s own hand by Dio Chrysostem, and famous personages, we are told, were regularly accompanied by a slave prepared at any time to take dictation” – even if they were on horseback, or in the public baths! Though there was some disagreement on this preference (Quintillian preferred writing himself to dictation), it is clear that Jesus “doing it himself” was not a requirement.

Thus the general objection that Jesus did not write anything misses the point, because it anachronistically assumes a modern view of the importance of writing upon ancient peoples.

.…But if that is not enough (as it should be), then ask your friend this: Why didn’t Socrates write anything down himself, either?

From: Tektonics.Org http://www.tektonics.org/gk/jeswrite.html

Hope you find this helpful, Dale!

FL

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 11, 2008 2:03 PM.

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