Friday, April 18, 2008

An Informal Reply to Agagooga Concerning Some Allegations


As fellow blogger Gabriel Seah, or better known as Agagooga, has taken the pains to comment extensively on my previous post, I would like to return him the favor with this very informal reply. Please refer to his comments in the last post (in this post, his comments are in italics).

On a more cordial note, I would like to state that I appreciate Gabriel's input, and I wish him all the best in his studies and vocation.

A. Dan Brown is Sneaky

“Dan Brown's language is very sneaky. As I said, he did not say the EVENTS were true, he said the ORGANIZATIONS etc existed. Please note the distinction.”

This is not true. Dan Brown said, “All of it. The paintings, locations, historical documents, and organizations described in the novel all exist.” “All of it” would include all the allegedly “factual” information in the novel (except the plot/story line). The historical documents, if factual (as he claimed), would have substantial theological implications as well.

“You say that major religions should have special exemptions. How is this different from the double standards you accuse the government of having?”

Again, this is a misrepresentation of what I wrote. I wrote, “The Bible, as well as the Quran and Sanskrit, are the religious texts of various major religions. As a multireligious society, the government cannot ban such religious texts.” The outlawing of religious texts central to worship would be considered religious persecution within a “multi-religious” society. The allowance of freedom of worship would include the legal possession and usage of such religious texts i.e. Quran.

How does allowing “the possession and usage of religious texts” by the various religions in Singapore constitute “double standards?”

B. Jesus and His Alleged Attacks Against Judaism

“Judaism is against humans being divine”

I suppose you mean, “Judaism is against humans claiming to be divine.” Christianity is also against humans claiming to be divine (it’s blasphemy!). Jesus, however, is not merely human. He is God Himself in the flesh. So, is Judaism against God claiming to be divine?

“Judaism preaches the indivisibility of YHWH.”

Indivisibility of what of YHWH? We Christians believe that the Trinity is indivisible as well. (See Thomas Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1996), 185.)

“Jesus falsely claimed to be a messiah.”

This is another one of your bare assertions. You need to show that he “falsely claimed” to be the Messiah. “Falsely” according to what documents and textual evidence?

“He contradicted the Torah and claimed that its commandments were null and void. One example of a Jewish religious law he transgressed (and urged transgression of) was that of diet - he said you could eat anything, which is blasphemy in Judaism. Another example is his plucking grain, which transgressed the Sabbath. In fact if you're really strict, the punishment for breaking the Sabbath is stoning.”

This is an interesting assertion from you.

Firstly, He did not claim that “its commandments were null and void.” If you insist, you should at least provide us with the relevant exposition and textual evidence. And what historical documents will you use to support your proposition?

If you are arguing from the New Testament, we must make a distinction between narratives of events, and their respective interpretations. Your question impinges upon the issue of hermeneutics. Should we interpret the events the way you did? What is your exegesis of the related texts?

You claim that Jesus “said [they] could eat anything.” You must mean that Jesus encouraged the Jews and His disciples to eat pork and other non-kosher food as well (i.e. everything). Where in the biblical documents (or whatever textual evidence you have) do we find this?

Secondly, we have the question of the Sabbath. Jesus claimed (and Christians agree) that He did not transgress the Sabbath according to the biblical texts. How do you exegete this particular passage to make it say what you want it to say i.e. that He did transgress the Sabbath?

Furthermore, you haven’t answered my question of textual evidence. This is important because: if you want to argue via reductio that based upon the Christian Bible, Jesus did indeed transgressed the Sabbath, the onus is on you to furnish us with that exegetical evidence from the OT and NT.

“I am not assuming the truth of the bible in any way. I am showing that, even on Christianity's terms, what Jesus did was a violation of Jewish law.”

Again, you’re begging the question. How would you interpret the Law in the OT? Why, according to your exegeses, do you think that Jesus transgressed the Law?

According to the biblical documents, Jesus did not violate any “law.” This is the understanding “on Christianity’s terms.” Besides, the law needs to be interpreted before it can be applied.

Finally, concerning your allegation that Jesus “attacked” Judaism, what in your opinion constitutes an “attack?”

Jesus may have taught doctrines that were not palatable to the Judaists, but does that constitute an “attack” on the Judaists? As an analogy, let us consider the Buddhists in Singapore. They are teaching certain doctrines in their sermons that we may find objectionable/heretical as Christians. Some of the Buddhists may even teach/discuss these doctrines in public places. Will you say that the Buddhists have attacked Christians in this regard? Again, if Buddhists do not follow certain Christian practices (and teach their disciples the same), will you claim that the Buddhists have attacked Christianity?

Following your line of reasoning, if the preaching or teaching of doctrines contrary to another religion is considered an "attack," have you considered the option that it was actually the Judaists who "attacked" Christians? The Judaists were preaching and teaching doctrines contrary to Christianity, even heretical doctrines. The Judaists were the ones who oppressed the minority Christians (see the Book of Acts on how Christians were sorely persecuted by the Jewish leaders). And the One who got "attacked" on the Cross was Jesus Christ, not the leaders of Judaism. So should we say that the Judaists persecuted and "attacked" Christ unto death, and not vice versa?

C. Christians shouldn't be offended by the double standards; besides, they persecute others when they get offended

“The degree of offensiveness... is evaluated by the leaders of a particular religion. This is amusing, given that Jewish religious leaders got Jesus crucified.”

I wrote, “The degree of offensiveness of a particular religious publication is not based upon headcount, but is evaluated by the leaders of a particular religion i.e. theologians and pastors who know what is at stake, and what exactly is being said in such literature.”

This statement is made within the context of a tolerant, multi-religious and multi-racial society.

It is amusing for you because you have amusingly made an anachronistic comment outside the Singaporean context (fallacy of abstraction and context-dropping).

“I am also reminded of the Last Temptation of Christ. It was considered offensive by some Christians, but now people realise it made a very pertinent, important and moving theological point.”

What pertinent, important and moving theological point are you referring to, pray tell? Pertinent to who/what, important to who/what, and moving according to who/what? How is that relevant to our discussion here?

The issue at hand concerns apparent double standards by the censorship board with regard to the “Da Vinci Code.”

(Note: In October 2006, our Minister George Yeo said that, “When I was MITA minister, we banned Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses while allowing 'the Last Temptation of Christ' because the Muslim reaction was entirely predictable."

On an earlier occasion (2/06), he said, “In ASEAN, we must not allow similar misunderstandings between Muslims and non-Muslims to surface. When Salman Rushdie's book "Satanic Verses" was published some years ago, Singapore banned it because we knew it would cause trouble. In contrast, we did not ban "The Last Temptation of Christ" because the Christian ground and the Muslim ground are different.”

So it seems that the “Last Temptation of Christ” is not currently banned in Singapore, and this buttress our suspicion of existing double standards.)

“Some Christians wanting to persecute those who allegedly attack their religion: - Corpus Christi got bomb/death threats - The Last Temptation of Christ movie got molotov cocktail-ed in France - http://comment.straitstimes.com/showthread.php?t=10293&page=4#36”

In your previous comment, you wrote, “Christians want to persecute those who (allegedly) attack their religion.” You have failed to show how you know that Christians-simpliciter “want to persecute” such people because they attacked “their religion.” Unless you can argue for causation, your statement qualifies for the honorifics cum hoc, ergo propter hoc and bare assertion.

It is quite feeble that you have to resort to quoting the ST Forum as a source of authority. At best, your aforementioned examples only qualify your allegation as a hasty generalization.

I notice that you have added a modifier – “some” Christians. That makes better sense, but falls for the fallacy of guilt by association. Allow me to explain.

Your allegation = Some Christians want to persecute those who allegedly attack their religion.

But this allegation is true for almost every sect, cult, political association, pugilistic organization and religion, including atheistic and non-religious associations.

So,

P = Some X want to persecute those who allegedly attack their Y.

Where X is a subset of a particular class of people, and Y is the associated ideology/affiliation of this class. There will always be “some” X who would do objectionable deeds apart from the teachings of Y. In this case, the Bible (i.e. Sermon on the Mount) does not teach Christians to “persecute” their enemies.

But what has P to do with the issue at hand? Beside making the whole class of “Christians” or X look bad by associating them with the actions of certain groups of extremists (more accurately, self-professing Christians who do not follow biblical injunctions), how does P support your argument concerning the presence/absence of double standards in Singapore?

That is the point of the entire post.

5 comments:

Agagooga said...

The Bible, as well as the Quran and Sanskrit, are the religious texts of various major religions. As a multireligious society, the government cannot ban such religious texts

Can the government ban the religious texts of less major or even minor religions? These are the double standards I was referring to.

Jesus, however, is not merely human. He is God Himself in the flesh. So, is Judaism against God claiming to be divine?

That's begging the question. In any case, from what I read the notion of YHWH taking a corporeal form is not Kosher (unfortunately I do not understand Judaism as well as Christianity).

We Christians believe that the Trinity is indivisible as well.

This is the sort of Christian theology that is logically incoherent. Either that or there is severe pussyfooting and redefinition of terms. You can go and argue with the Jews if you want, but they reject the idea of their god being divisible.

By preaching a new covenant etc, Jesus was negating the validity of what the Jews were already practising. 'This is wrong, here is what you should do'. This would qualify as an attack. And it cannot be that the Jews were attacking Christianity, because the Jews were around and practising their doctrines inimical to Christianity long before there were any Christians.

the One who got "attacked" on the Cross was Jesus Christ, not the leaders of Judaism. So should we say that the Judaists persecuted and "attacked" Christ unto death, and not vice versa?
So you would say that the couple being prosecuted under the Sedition Act are being persecuted and attacked by the state (and presumably whoever reported them), and that they did not 'attack' Islam by giving out those tracts. Similarly, Char (the guy who posted the Jesus cartoons in 2005) was persecuted and attacked by the state (and the person who reported him), and that he was not 'attacking' Christianity.

If you want you can read the many many footnotes on how Christianity is incompatible with Judaism at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism%27s_view_of_Jesus#cite_note-0
Given that you said that we must rely on what religious leaders say about their religions ("theologians and pastors who know what is at stake, and what exactly is being said in such literature"), so I trust you will agree that what Jewish scholars and rabbis say about Christianity being incompatible with Judaism is more authoritative than what Christians say about the same subject. I would also note the anti-Semitism present in parts of the New Testament - does that mean it should be banned in deference to the Jews?


I wrote, “The degree of offensiveness of a particular religious publication is not based upon headcount, but is evaluated by the leaders of a particular religion i.e. theologians and pastors who know what is at stake, and what exactly is being said in such literature.”

This statement is made within the context of a tolerant, multi-religious and multi-racial society.


???

So in non-tolerant and/or non-multi-religious and/or non-multi-racial societies, who determines the degree of offensiveness of anything?


What pertinent, important and moving theological point are you referring to, pray tell? Pertinent to who/what, important to who/what, and moving according to who/what? How is that relevant to our discussion here?

It is that what some people consider offensive, others consider relevant to religion.

How is Last Temptation relevant?

"[They] paid Christ the compliment of taking him and his message seriously, and they have made a film that does not turn him into a garish, emasculated image from a religious postcard. Here he is flesh and blood, struggling, questioning, asking himself and his father which is the right way, and finally, after great suffering, earning the right to say, on the cross, 'It is accomplished.'"

What if some Christians were offended by Faces of Death VI, aka the Passion of the Christ? Should that have been banned too? Some Jews found it offensive, incidentally.

What is offensive to one is moving to another. See above about the Jews. Unfortunately they are a small community in Singapore so they can't apply your logic to your religion.

"In contrast, we did not ban "The Last Temptation of Christ" because the Christian ground and the Muslim ground are different."

So it seems that the “Last Temptation of Christ” is not currently banned in Singapore, and this buttress our suspicion of existing double standards.


I think you should be honoured and flattered instead.

In your previous comment, you wrote, “Christians want to persecute those who (allegedly) attack their religion.” You have failed to show how you know that Christians-simpliciter “want to persecute” such people because they attacked “their religion.” Unless you can argue for causation, your statement qualifies for the honorifics cum hoc, ergo propter hoc and bare assertion.

I note once again that, perhaps in bad faith, you have dropped the 'some' qualifier from the start of my statement. I am not saying that ALL christians want to persecute those who allegedly attack their religion.

And your level of nitpicking is unprecedented. It seems that nothing short of interviews with those who firebombed the theatre exploring their motives are going to convince you. I hope you do not descend into solipsism next.

My point in raising the 'some Christians...' point had nothing to do with double standards. I was just raising an ironic point.

PuritanReformed said...

Why do critics think like Dispensationalists? Hmmm....

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Gabriel,

“Can the government ban the religious texts of less major or even minor religions? These are the double standards I was referring to.”

>A classical categorical fallacy, and therefore, a red herring. You failed to distinguish P (= “religious texts central to particular religions”) and non-P i.e. non-religious texts.

Is Dan Brown’s novel a “religious text”? Is Rushdie’s Satanic Verses the central text of religious worship for Muslims?

“That's begging the question. In any case, from what I read the notion of YHWH taking a corporeal form is not Kosher (unfortunately I do not understand Judaism as well as Christianity).”

>You were insisting that Jesus had erroneously claimed to be divine. But your allegation ought to be justified by the exegesis of the relevant passages of Scripture from which you were arguing (again, if it is not from the biblical texts, what/which texts are you arguing from?). In other words, your allegation begged the question in the first place. If you “do not understand Judaism as well as Christianity”, why are you making such allegations as if you know these religions?

How is the doctrine of the Incarnation “non-kosher?”

“This is the sort of Christian theology that is logically incoherent. Either that or there is severe pussyfooting and redefinition of terms. You can go and argue with the Jews if you want, but they reject the idea of their god being divisible.”

>You just mentioned that you “do not understand Judaism as well as Christianity.” You have repeatedly failed to furnish us with any exegesis for your allegations. Now, you speak as an expert in theology and conclude that the indivisibility of the triune God is “logically incoherent.” Please show me via logic/theology how this is “logically incoherent.”

“Either that or there is severe pussyfooting and redefinition of terms.”

>Really. How? (Straw man)

You still haven’t answered my question, “Indivisibility of WHAT of God?”

We Christians likewise reject “the idea of [our] god being divisible” as well. So what is the issue?

“By preaching a new covenant etc, Jesus was negating the validity of what the Jews were already practising. 'This is wrong, here is what you should do'. This would qualify as an attack. And it cannot be that the Jews were attacking Christianity, because the Jews were around and practising their doctrines inimical to Christianity long before there were any Christians.”

>So your definition of an “attack” (A) is this:

A = “Jesus was negating the validity of what the Jews were already practicing.”

Your proposition that A presupposes that what the Jews were practicing were “valid.” How do you show that these were “valid”? (And “valid” according to what?) Isn’t this a bare assertion on your part unless you have the evidence to support your proposition that A? Please furnish us with the necessary evidence/argument that “Jesus was negating the validity of what the Jews were already practicing.”

If you claim that these were valid according to the Jews/Judaists, it still begs the question as to why these were valid interpretations (of what?). Why, according to your expertise, are these valid in relation to the relevant texts/documents (Torah?)? And you have claimed that you “do not understand Judaism as well as Christianity.”

According to your reasoning, if a religion X exists before another Y, X cannot be “attacking” Y even if X teaches a doctrine which contradicts Y. So you would say that only the oldest, pre-existing religion in a country (X) is entitled to teach it’s doctrine i.e. all other religions are considered “attacking” X if they teach any doctrine which contradicts X’s doctrines? This is so counter-intuitive; why would the “pre-existence” of any religion be given such privileges? If this is the case, there is no ground for any dialogue between religions. The younger religions cannot contradict X; any such contradiction would (according to your reasoning) constitute an “attack.”

“So you would say that the couple being prosecuted under the Sedition Act are being persecuted and attacked by the state (and presumably whoever reported them), and that they did not 'attack' Islam by giving out those tracts. Similarly, Char (the guy who posted the Jesus cartoons in 2005) was persecuted and attacked by the state (and the person who reported him), and that he was not 'attacking' Christianity.”

>False analogy. Was Jesus guilty of transgressing any criminal/civil law? After the trial, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate couldn’t charge Jesus with any crime! :)

“Given that you said that we must rely on what religious leaders say about their religions ("theologians and pastors who know what is at stake, and what exactly is being said in such literature") ...”

>I wrote, “The degree of offensiveness of a particular religious publication is not based upon headcount, but is evaluated by the leaders of a particular religion i.e. theologians and pastors who know what is at stake, and what exactly is being said in such literature.”

I have reiterated again and again: This statement is made within the context of a tolerant, multi-religious and multi-racial society i.e. Singapore. So the statement above is made within the context of Singapore. Do you understand now?

“... so I trust you will agree that what Jewish scholars and rabbis say about Christianity being incompatible with Judaism is more authoritative than what Christians say about the same subject. I would also note the anti-Semitism present in parts of the New Testament - does that mean it should be banned in deference to the Jews?”

>So what if these two religions are allegedly “incompatible?” Does that constitute an “attack?”

“I would also note the anti-Semitism present in parts of the New Testament”

>This is another bare assertion (ad infinitum ad nauseam). Show me your exegeses of the relevant passages. (You haven’t shown me any exegeses thus far).

“So in non-tolerant and/or non-multi-religious and/or non-multi-racial societies, who determines the degree of offensiveness of anything?”

>That would be another question altogether, and is irrelevant to the discussion at hand i.e. Singapore and double standards. (another red herring).

What pertinent, important and moving theological point are you referring to, pray tell? Pertinent to who/what, important to who/what, and moving according to who/what? How is that relevant to our discussion here? (Vincent asked)

“It is that what some people consider offensive, others consider relevant to religion.”

>Define “what” and “some.” (question begging, right?) You didn’t answer my question.

"[They] paid Christ the compliment of taking him and his message seriously, and they have made a film that does not turn him into a garish, emasculated image from a religious postcard. Here he is flesh and blood, struggling, questioning, asking himself and his father which is the right way, and finally, after great suffering, earning the right to say, on the
cross, 'It is accomplished.'"

>Ah, I see. You have probably copied Roger Ebert comments from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Temptation_of_Christ_(film)

(or some other sources.)

But my question was, “What pertinent, important and moving theological point are you referring to, pray tell?” You claimed that the Last Temptation made a “pertinent, important and moving theological point.”

Roger Ebert is a film critic, not a theologian. This is the classic fallacy of appeal to misleading authority.

When you peruse Wikipedia’s article (or another related article) on the Last Temptation, at least do yourself the favor of reading the following, “The film contains many ideas not present in the Bible. This is seen as a point of contention despite the film opening with a disclaimer stating that it is 'not based on the gospels' and is 'fictional'.”

Since “Last Temptation” is fictional (based upon the film’s disclaimer), and theology is by definition the study of God based upon biblical and related, reliable non-fictional documents, how would you make a “pertinent, important and moving theological point” based upon fiction? It doesn't matter how you would define theology, you cannot study theology or make a theological point - no matter how pertinent, important and moving - based upon mere fiction.

“What if some Christians were offended by Faces of Death VI, aka the Passion of the Christ? Should that have been banned too? Some Jews found it offensive, incidentally.”

>Another red herring. The issue here concerns double standards. Let there be no double standards, be there a ban or not a ban on such movies.

“What is offensive to one is moving to another. See above about the Jews. Unfortunately they are a small community in Singapore so they can't apply your logic to your religion.”

>So why are we not given the opportunity to enjoy Satanic Verses? Double standards?

“I think you should be honoured and flattered instead.”

>OK. I am honored and flattered. But still, what about the double standards?

“I am not saying that ALL christians want to persecute those who allegedly attack their religion.”

>As explained in this post, that qualifies for the guilt by association fallacy. I apologize for my oversight of the modifier “some” in the previous comment. My error. Do forgive me.

“And your level of nitpicking is unprecedented. It seems that nothing short of interviews with those who firebombed the theatre exploring their motives are going to convince you. I hope you do not descend into solipsism next.”

>Another ad hominem argument i.e. an appeal to ridicule and poisoning the well (i.e. Vincent is a nitpicker, beware!). All I had asked for is credible exegesis to support your bare assertions. But you had demanded that I accept your bare assertions in the absence of such arguments/evidence.

Of course, we could be (a possibility) brains in vats. But again, if I am a Solipsist, I wouldn’t be arguing with you. You do not exist.

“My point in raising the 'some Christians...' point had nothing to do with double standards. I was just raising an ironic point.”

>An irony based upon a fallacy. :)

Yours truly,
Vincent

Anonymous said...

Hi Vincent

Just happened to stumble on your blog while surfing the web. I had skimmed through some of your entries.

I think you get what Gabriel is trying to to here. I don't know whether you have been asked this crucial question on this blog, but... WHY are you a Christian and not a follower of another religion? Seriously.

Your blog makes an interesting read :)

vincit omnia veritas said...

To Mr Ano Nymous

Hi Ano,

"WHY are you a Christian and not a follower of another religion?"

Coz Singapore allows the freedom of worship, and I freely chose to be a Christian.

Do you want more details i.e. my "Christian" biography?

Then do give me your email/website/blog address/real name, and I'll contact you. This information is too personal to be posted on a public domain.