Musical Fisking

Theomorph responded to my criticism of his eisegesis (Thanks for the spelling fix, by the way.). Interestingly, he made little attempt to defend his sophistry.

"Color me shocked. I wrote a provocative post and–wonder of wonders–provoked a response."

I can’t help but wonder in what sense Theo intended to provoke. Did he believe his arguments were "so blatantly clear and compelling that dissent is impossible" (or at least indefensible)? He certainly wouldn’t be the first arrogant fella to think that. I’ll be first to admit to that failing. Considering the sloppiness of the arguments, I don’t think that’s the case, though. Was he playing devil’s advocate by arguing a point he knew was wrong, just to find out how someone else would deconstruct it? No, I have no reason to doubt his sincerity as an atheist. At least I certainly hope he wasn’t doing that. Arguing a position that you don’t agree with without letting others know strikes me a rude and inconsiderate. I am left with only one other possibility I can think of. He deliberately made hyperboles of his points in order to attract attention and spark debate. I can’t say that pleases me either. His points are generally provocative enough without resorting to trickery.

I guess I can’t be too annoyed though since he followed good blogging advice – say something that’s controversial, obviously wrong, or offensive and you’ll be beating the readers away with a stick. Whether or not it’s good advice for winning friends and influencing people is another matter. Anyhow, he also inspired me to write more than I’ve written in a long time and here I am writing again.

"And, yup, ‘foaming at the mouth’ and ‘losing his cool’ are good ways to describe the way I feel right now. Call it a confluence of annoying things, from conservative Christians all across America seeming to think that the November 2 election handed them a blank check to impose their morality via legislation to the fact that for three nights now I have not slept except when I drug myself, which is, to say the least, disconcerting. So yeah, I’m in a bad mood."

There’s something I have to say that Theomorph and most of the world can’t seem to get through their thick skulls. It’s something that makes me foam at the mouth and lose my cool.

Not all Christians think W has a mandate! Not all want him to! We don’t all think he’s the second coming of Reagan! Some of us didn’t like Reagan in the first place! We’re not all gun-toting, Falwell-following, SUV-driving good ol’ boys! Just because I share some moral beliefs with neocons doesn’t make me one!!! As Theomorph is so fond of pointing out, there is a great deal of political diversity among Christians. When are people going to recognize that? Do I want abortion banned? Yes. Do I support gay marriage? No. Does that mean I want tax breaks for the rich, free market economics, or unilateral war? Absolutely not!

I’m also getting rather tired of people playing the "legislating morals" card. We legislate morals all the time. Revisionists can claim murder’s illegality is merely a convenience of social order all they want. It won’t change the fact that it’s illegal because people think it’s morally wrong. So is theft. So is assault. So are many other acts.

As for the lack of sleep bit, I’m sorry to hear it. I sincerely hope it’s resolved sooner. I’ll pray for you, Theo. I promise it won’t hurt. 😉

"Second, regarding I Timothy 5:8, when Christians are told that failing in their Christian duties makes them ‘worse than an unbeliever,’ I fail to see how the unbeliever comes out of that looking very good. Think about what other kinds of things you could put in that kind of comparison– ‘worse than a dog,’ ‘worse than filth,’ ‘worse than something bad.’ Try putting something good in there and the comparison loses all its weight– "worse than a summer day,’ ‘worse than ice cream,’ ‘worse than raindrops on roses,’ etc. The idea is that ‘Hey, Christian, you don’t want to be as bad as an unbeliever, do you? Didn’t think so.’ Personally, being an unbeliever, I find that slanderous."

I think I liked it better when he thought we were calling atheists "poor, ignorant saps" Anyhow, he’s missed the point of what Paul was saying. Apostasy is a serious sin. By telling Christians that neglecting their families is worse than apostasy, Paul highlighted the seriousness of the sin. Whether he meant it literally is not the point. Either way he would brook no such negligence and made it clear that to do so was unChristian. Also, Paul also exhorted Christians to not think themselves better than nonbelievers, who were of a different character than today. &Worse than nonbelievers" was a slap in the face: "Oh you think you’re automatically better than the dissolute Greco-Roman world, huh? Well, if you aren’t living up to what you claim you believe in, you’re a hypocrite, and thus worse than a pagan hedonist who has no pretensions about what he is." Paul, echoing Christ, wants us to practice what we preach. There’s nothing slanderous in that.

" Third, regarding II Corinthians 2:6, it’s pretty much the same situation. If it’s ‘not good for a person’s confidence or self-esteem, let alone their soul, to be married to a nonbeliever,’ what exactly does that say about the nonbeliever? Hi, I’m poison to your soul. Thanks. Yeah, I’m just lovin’ that one. "

How is marrying an atheist good for a Christian? Not being able to share your faith with your spouse is a painful experience. What about raising Christian children? That’s not likely to go over well. How about when they learn that Mommy or Daddy doesn’t love God? How about the anxiety of worrying about the eternal state of your spouse’s soul? Furthermore, the Church sees marriage is a sacrament. It is a means of obtaining grace and each spouse is supposed to be helping the other become holier. Mixed marriages make that sense of marital union extremely difficult, if not impossible. These and other issues are at the heart of being "unevenly yoked". It is for our own good that we are to avoid marrying nonbelievers. Marrying nonChristian theists is often little better.

" …according to Christian cosmology, at the end of the world, when my name is not "found written in the book of life," I will be "thrown into the lake of fire." Seems pretty straightforward to me. "

Those who stubbornly refuse to reciprocate God’s love cast themselves out. Christians eager to tell you you’re damned should reread Matthew 25.

"Fifth, no, I don’t like the ‘God as parent analogy.’ Parents don’t kill their children when they misbehave. The God of the Bible is a murderous tyrant who demands lots and lots of blood, including his own, simply because some people don’t want to do his bidding."

Seeing as at the time He was still speaking directly to humans and showing His might left and right, I think they were a bit more culpable for their lack of faith. Apparently the flood, the plagues, parting the Red Sea, and other acts didn’t impress people. I find it hard to feel sorry for people that dense.

"Sixth, regarding the fallacy of ‘mocking someone’s argument before it is given,’ sure, maybe that’s fallacious, but I can’t say it was particularly wrong in this case. Nothing Funky says surprises me. "

I generally pride myself for being consistent in thought and argument, but I can’t help but feel a little insulted by that remark. It’s also kind of infuriating due to its ad hominem nature. He said nothing that proved my arguments to be mere "back flips" and then he invalidated anything I’ve ever said or will say by calling it predictable in an implicitly inadequate, erroneous, or uninteresting way. I’ll chalk it up to sleep-deprivation-induced crankiness and try not to dwell on it.

"However, on the bright side, I should point out that my original argument was that Christians are all but required to treat atheists like low, unholy, kindling, and Funky’s contention is that Christians should treat atheists much more nicely. I’m glad he thinks so. He is a pretty nice guy, even if we disagree rather, um, intensely. "

Continuing that thought, I offer the following Scripture.

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:3-5

"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’" Luke 18:9-14

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another." Galatians 5:14-15

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

5 thoughts on “Musical Fisking

  1. steve

    How is marrying an atheist good for a Christian?

    I’d like to ask Theo, how is marrying a Christian good for an athiest? Sure I guess it wouldn’t be a problem if Christianity didn’t “get in the way.” But wouldn’t that just be practical agnosticism on the part of the Christian partner? So marrying a Christian is okay for the athiest as long as the Christian’s belief system includes atheism as an equally valid viewpoint? But what sort of Christianity is that?!?! I wonder how well that shoe would fit on the other foot?

    About the

    …according to Christian cosmology, at the end of the world, when my name is not “found written in the book of life,” I will be “thrown into the lake of fire.” Seems pretty straightforward to me.

    Nothing in the Apocolypse is straight-forward, which is why so little Christian theology comes thence. Coopting the hermeneutics of Tim LaHaye (of “Left Behind” dispensationalist fame) may suit Theo’s argument right here, but it otherwise seems a bit disingenuous. You’re arguing with a Jack Chick tract, not actual Orthodox Christianity.

    G’nite 😉

  2. steve

    If Revelation 20:15 doesn’t mean that people whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into a lake of fire, what does it mean?

    I take it to be as literal as I do the idea of God having breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. Which is to say, not literally at all. That is not to say that I don’t think Rev. 20:15 is true. It’s just that it must be viewed in concert with “everything else” we know about God from all other scripture, wherein, your protestations notwithstanding, God reveals himself to be patient, loving, & gracious. I therefore infer that any candidate for fire-lake dumping must have so steadfastly resisted every grace of God, and for so long, that such a one would no longer be recognized as either human or conscious (since both are gifts, graces, of God). Moreover, since I have noted high levels of both humanity and conscious functioning in you, I maintain that you have yet to qualify. So, if “you” ever do get thrown into the lake of fire, it won’t really be “you” at all (at least not the one we all know and love). [Ack! And I don’t mean to sound passive-agressive here 🙂 I’m really answering according to my best current understanding.]

    Do notice also that I’ve not co-opted Tim LaHaye’s wacky eschatology.

    I didn’t say eschatology, but rather meant the lesser accusation of coopting his hermeneutics–the idea that we can interpret Revelation to mean actual, knowable, predictable future historical events. Again, I’m not saying Revelation is false, but merely noting that interpretation thereof outside of consensus of other Scripture, human reason, and the traditions of the Church, is bound to be either wrong, silly, irrational, downright detestible, or any combination thereof.

    As to judging between Jack Chick and Christian Orthodoxy, all I can add to Jerry’s comments is Jesus’ statement that, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) It may be hit-n-miss with orthodoxy (in fairness), but it’s ALL MISS with Chick.


  3. Jerry Nora

    Jack Chick and orthodoxy. You ask “which one is right and how do I know?” Well, forget right, because that would require ditching atheism, so let’s settle for orthodox interpretations, where orthox interpreations are the guiding vision for understanding scripture that has had the most continous influence on Christian history and thought.

    I don’t know how Steve will approach this if he does, but we’ve already been over the points I’m about to introduce and I doubt you’ll find our reasoning valid, but that’s what’s keeping Haloscan in business on this site so what the heck:

    An orthodox Christian can point to a steady development of doctrine via the Councils and Church Fathers; hence how I defined orthodoxy as being the set of principles that have consistently guided the Church over time, rather than the solipsistic opinions of a single Christian. Jack Chick’s sense of history, is shall we say…interesting, having read some of his anti-Catholic propaganda. An orthodox Christian interprets Scripture in the light of previous interpreters, and while there are different ways of interpretation, you’ll find within the orthodox circles a good deal of concordance on key issues. I know you point out many divisions within Christianity, but within Catholicism and Orthodoxy there is a strong set of common reference points in interpretation. If we did not have such a set of common points, we could not unify efficiently enough to persecute heretics and infidels, which is another aspect of Christian history you often mention. 😉

    I know you consider such reasoning by way of tradition invalid, but that is the gold standard for orthodoxy, and that is the answer for how you tell between an orthodox Christian and a ravingly sola scriptura fundamentalism like Mr. Chick. If you find both equally untenable, well, that may partly explain why you are an atheist!

  4. theomorph


    If Revelation 20:15 doesn’t mean that people whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into a lake of fire, what does it mean?

    Do notice also that I’ve not co-opted Tim LaHaye’s wacky eschatology. I mentioned one verse and said nothing about premillennialism.

    Second, if Jack Chick’s view is different from that of “Orthodox Christianity,” which one is right and how do I know?

    I’ve seen plenty of different interpretations of the Apocalypse, but it’s pretty clear from reading the book of Revelation as a single piece of literature that this thing is depicting a purified, post-Satan, post-sin world. People like me get thrown into a lake of fire (Rev. 20:15) and are not allowed into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27). This is the end of history, which for the Jews had been rather cyclical. Christianity opened up that cycle and put a definite possibility of hope for a purified world at the end. That’s probably why Rev. 4:1 describes it as “what must take place after this.”

    Also, that new linear conception of history that came out of Christianity has widely been considered pretty darned important for the development of Western civilization. An unmistakable feature of that conception, though, is that all heresy, heathenism, atheism, and false religion (i.e., all non-christian religions) will be stamped out eventually. Despite the friendly Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, Christianity has almost always been either aggressive or passive-aggressive (the latter probably annoys me more) about its self-image of eventual triumph over the rest of the world at the expense of the rest of us.

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