Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Post-Postscript to Armstrong-Babinski Debate on the Psalms

[Ed Babinski's words will be in blue]

For those who haven't followed this, here are the previous installments:

Reply to "The Problem of Pain and the Egomania of the Psalms"

Second Reply to Agnostic Ed Babinski on the Supposed Irrationality and Immorality of the Psalms and the Christian Worldview

How and Why Discussions With Agnostics and Atheists Often (Sadly) Collapse / The Many Logical Fallacies of Ed Babinski and Friends (Was [and occasionally still touches upon]: Discussion on the Psalms) 92K

Round III With Ed Babinski On Profound Christian Ignorance, and Every Subject Under the Sun Except the Topic (The Psalms)

Ed's Attempt to Enlist an Ancient Near East Scholar in Support Backfires (Dr.
James Roger Black vs. Ed Babinski; compiled, and additional commentary by Dave Armstrong) 46K


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Hi Ed,

Hope you are well.

Below is the email message I told you about, which I sent to about 50 e-friends of mine on Dec. 17th, 2004, to try and drum up interest at your blog site. I did it all for us and your blog site. As we both know, few were even interested in the topic enough to read and respond to what you
had written.

[Catholic convert and web-pologist Dave Armstrong has produced a massive
pro-Catholic website over the years. The story of his conversion to
Catholicism appears in a bestselling book of similar converts (mostly
former Protestantism I think), and he has published numerous books of
Catholic apologetics, all available at amazon.com, that strive to make
Catholicism and its various unique doctrines and practices appear in as
rational a light as possible, as well as having published in-depth
counters to both Protestantism and Modernism. Dave recently composed a
long web piece at his blog-site criticizing one of my shorter pieces on
the psalms. He continues to write in a pretty friendly fashion and invite
my response, as well as the responses of any readers of the debate, and he
publishes them all at his blog-site. Most folks who read Dave's blog are
Christians and respond in kind. His blog could probably use just a few
non-Christian responses or even moderate Christian responses from moderate
Christian university profs, to balance matters out a tad: ]

I was aware of that and have no problem with it. Your webmaster was the one who apparently started down the path of poisoning the well, with her potshots at my supposed motives and shortcomings. This was unnecessary and unhelpful. I'm not the "bad guy" for simply objecting to that "hijacking" of what had the potential to be a fruitful discussion.

What exactly were you seeking or hoping to accomplish in responding to my psalms piece?

To show that your reasoning and conclusions did not follow. Frankly, I should think that was obvious, but hey, I'm always glad to clarify, and so I appreciate the opportunity.

And why begin with that piece?

It was short and to the point. I didn't have the time (or the desire) to take on one of your epics (I had to constantly point out that your ever-present lengthy diversions were non sequiturs, as it was). One has to start somewhere. I remembered that you had written some friendly letters, and so I decided to take on one of your papers and see what happened. You struck me as a guy who would be willing to dialogue and I am always on the lookout for that.

Technically speaking, I don't see how you were ever going to help me reason my way to agreeing with you that every last verse in the Psalms is inspired by God

But that wasn't my goal at all. You confuse defeating a fallacious argument with making a positive argument. My project was the former. You simply projected the latter project onto my argument and supposed goals, when it was never there. It was second-guessing, and you guessed wrong.

anymore than I can imagine other types of cursing-imprecatory literature found outside the Bible to be "inspired."

Furthermore there are plenty of non cursing-non imprecatory verses and literature, both in the Bible and in non-Christian literature, that strike me as being more "inspired" if that's the right word.

I'm well aware that skeptics have a problem with these verses, but that gets back to the nature of the literature which is vastly misunderstood (a major theme of my replies). I bypassed a complex subject in and of itself (imprecatory psalms), only commenting on it briefly, and went to the large backdrop issue of interpretation of Hebrew poetry. You say that was irrelevant and off-topic (and perhaps evasive). I say it was exactly on-topic and crucial in order for the discussion to progress. One must examine premises. You had your hidden premises, and I was questioning them. This is my Socratic method.

You may not always follow my reasoning, but I am what I am and don't attempt to change like some sort of chameleon, in my discussions. I try to "be all things to all people," as St. Paul urged, but I don't fundamentally change my philosophical methodology. I challenge premises and try to get people to (1) be aware of theirs, and (2) defend them from critique. I think you have a ways to go on both counts, with regard to this particular argument of yours (insofar as it can be called an "argument" at all and not simply an emotional, essentially non-rational objection precipitated by a sad and troubling event -- the funeral of a friend).

If you can't grasp what I have said above, then I suppose we truly are of entirely different minds concerning the Bible, but then, C. S. Lewis also appears to be of his own mind concerning such the Bible and the psalms, and he was a Christian.

You are the one who clearly hasn't grasped my argument. I have shown this over and over. You assume I am being simplistic and ignorant. That's a big mistake.

In the end, I also think it more important what type of person someone is, rather than placing a person's beliefs before getting to know them.

I completely agree that there are nice, wonderful people in all belief-systems. That's not my beef. Never was . . . I am dealing with comparative belief-systems and trying to show the weaknesses of the non-Christian and non-Catholic ones and the strengths of my own. I assume the good will and decency of folks unless and until I am provided incontrovertible evidence otherwise. :-)

I have friends of different beliefs,

As do I. I have a good atheist friend who regularly attended my group discussion meetings. I have a Baptist friend who is a Marxist or socialist (or however he would class himself). He has been a friend of mine for almost 20 years. I saw both at a new years' party.

and even within Catholicism there are far right wing and far left wing believers, members of various lay groups, who hardly see eye to eye on many different matters, even breakaway Catholic groups (like pre-Vatican 2 Catholics churches that kept the Latin Mass), and rent-a-priests (married former priests whom you can phone and they will come and do mass for you).

Of course.

Here is the email I had sent out to 50 people I knew, including about ten Christians, but who apparently did not have either the time or interest in our debate: [posted above]

Well, that's not unusual, as I'm sure you know. Very few people are interested in true debate. How well I know that. And this trait crosses all lines of party affiliation, believe me. The people who drive me the most nuts are other Christians. I have two prominent anti-Catholic apologists calling me a liar and deceiver as I write (see the recent blog entry where I protested this abominable [public] treatment). You just said I was boring and off-subject (and, perhaps implied: intolerant). LOLOLOL That's small change!

If you weren't aware of it, I posted your exchange with James Roger Black that you (and he) forwarded to me. I think your attempt there to make me look like a simplistic would-be fundamentalist hyper-literal Bible interpreter, backfired, to put it mildly. You should learn from this, Ed. I don't fit into the box that you have tried to put me in. Nor do, I think, many Christians you cite, not the least of whom, C.S. Lewis, as Dr. Black illustrated. We all need to get over stereotypical thinking, and that includes most assuredly, many Christians and their wild misconceptions of atheists and agnostics such as yourself. Both sides (I'm speaking now very broadly) have lied about and misrepresented the other to scandalous proportions, and it is time for true thinkers to get beyond that. We can unite on many commonly-held grounds and have good discussion without the personal elements and suspicions that destroy discussion every time.

I shall add this exchange to that paper also, unless you have some objection. I like free speech. Let both sides express themselves and let onlookers decide who makes more sense . . .

Take care,

Dave

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