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 The paintings, locations, historical documents, and organizations described in the novel all exist.”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 The historical documents, if factual (as he claimed), would have substantial theological implications as well.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.
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.