Some book recommendations

By Jon Morgan

Recently, I put together a short list of books that had helped me when struggling with doubts, and that I wished I had read earlier.  They were:
  • Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary (available online here)
  • Unbelievable (available online here)
  • Why Evolution is True
  • Sapiens
For more information about how these books helped me, plus some fiction and a couple of other recommendations, see my original blog post.

But it got me thinking: I knew about all of these books because of recommendations by others (some of them on this site). And I'm sure that there are other helpful books that I'm not aware of.  So I thought I'd throw it open to discussion.

Are there any books that you would particularly recommend here?  Books that helped with dealing with doubt or with constructing a new worldview?  Please comment below.

38 comments:

  1. Thank you Jon,
    I`ve read the second and third on your list, they`re well worth a read. I`ll catch up on the first and fourth.
    May I add: "GOD - A Biography" by Jack Miles, and, "The Bible Unearthed" by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mancott. I'm sure I had both on my reading list at some point, but they seem to have dropped off. I've put them back on, so I may get to them by 2020 :)

      Delete
  2. Ah yes, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This should be interesting. :)

    I keep a list of what I've read here because I think it's important to know where someone's ideas come from. You will see that two of the four mentioned in the original post are on my list. I'm also currently reading Sapiens so that'll go on there once finished as well.

    On Jon's original blog post he mentions the principal of "Don’t just read things that support your point of view", and on that vein I'd like to recommend one that was particularly significant on that front for me that is likely to challenge both theist and atheist. I found Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God" fascinating. It plots a history of ideas about 'God' up to the present day and shows how modern philosophy thinks about 'God' in a very different (and much more interesting) way to the people in the pews.

    Though not actually a book, I'd also like to add an Open Yale Courses resource to the list. Professor Dale B. Martin takes you through what scholarship tells us about the New Testament. The course is available for free here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, looks a good list. Though I'm not sure I'm happy listing all the books I've read without significant caveats. Particularly with apologetics books, sometimes they spun a good argument, and I only later realised how much they have over-simplified it. At least "Living on the Edge" is more cautious than "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist"...

      The open course looks interesting, too. Without things like that it's too easy to continue to interpret the Bible in the same way as before, and my knowledge of the Biblical text (as interpreted by Christadelphians) is much greater than my knowledge of modern scholarship (it didn't help that higher criticism etc. was generally considered biased and/or evil).

      Delete
    2. Agreed, listing books is very different to recommending them. And I certainly wouldn't recommend 'I don't have enough faith to be an atheist' among others that are there. It's on the list as recognition that I'm aware of those arguments even though I don't find them to be at all useful or compelling, and to try and deflect the claim that I've not read around the subject matter.

      Delete
    3. WRT the principle of not just reading stuff that supports your point of view, that originally came from Ken Daniels (though I heartily agree with it). I'm pretty certain he also said that that didn't mean contrarian reading was the majority of his reading, and he didn't feel compelled to read yet another apologetics book just because a believer pointed him to it. In fact, I think people have a responsibility to choose their own - no-one else should be able to dictate it.

      In my case, a lot of my stretch reading is on social issues that aren't directly linked to religion, but which a Christadelphian upbringing gave a certain point of view on. Stuff like feminism, poverty, racism, affirmative action, etc. But "The Case for God" sounds like a worthy addition.

      Delete
  3. I meant to add,
    THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, by Irving Finkel.
    Irving, going to university in Birmingham in 1969, found he was prevented from studying Egyptology due to the Egyptologist, T.Rundle Clark, "peremptorily expiring", and Irving was told it would take a while to find another one. It was suggested to him that he "do a bit of cuneiform in the interim with Lambert down the hall". Lambert was an Assyriologist. Irving writes "...at this stage I had no conception of how great a scholar he was..." W.G.Lambert was a Christadelphian, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Here is some evidence.....https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/bible-archaelogical-sites-etched-in-stone-archeological-discoveries-that-prove-the-bible-lisette-bassett-brody/2018/02/25/id/845378/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I sometimes wonder what believers assume we think about the Bible. Yes, it was written by real people, and they referenced real places. However, Asterix comics and most fictional movies also do the same. Google the "spiderman fallacy".

      The information is still useful in that it tells us something about the context in which the books were most likely written. And yes, we can verify that at least some of the place names are accurate, possibly most. But so what?

      We can also verify other things, for example the fact that Jericho was most likely uninhabited at the time when Joshua is supposed to have conquered it (this is the consensus view among archaeologists today). Likewise several other places mentioned in the exodus did not exist at time (Ai for example). A couple of cities supposedly built by Israelite slaves in Egypt didn't exist until the 1st millennium BCE (which interestingly is when those books are now widely believed to have been written). There is also zero evidence that Israelites were ever slaves in Egypt, and good evidence (i.e. the Hyksos) that simply doesn't allow any 400-year period of Israelite slavery. The Hyksos were there until the mid 2nd millennium, and occupied the Nile Delta region - exactly the area that the Israelites were supposed to occupy. And yet they were ruling class, not slaves - and left far too early to fit the exodus story. That's pretty conclusive in my view.

      Then there's the fact that the domestication of camels in the middle east didn't occur until many centuries after Abraham was supposed to have lived.

      The consensus among critical Bible scholars today is that the OT was written, edited, re-edited, and compiled, between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE, with some books (notably the book of Daniel) not being written/completed until the mid 2nd century BCE. These are not fringe views - they are now the mainstream consensus.

      The book you suggested sounds interesting, and I'm definitely not saying readers shouldn't give it a look. It does seem to be at odds with most modern archaeological evidence though. I will look forward to seeing some critical reviews of it by other scholars in the field.

      The part I object to most about all of this is the suggestion that if some historical references in the Bible are accurate, therefore we should accept all of it (including miracles etc) as accurate. That is simply a non-sequitur and is completely unjustified. We don't do this for any other historical document (many of our best sources for ancient leaders also contain accounts of miracles, which we reasonably reject). I've spent a long time looking into the historical reliability of the Bible and concluded it is a mixed bag. Some of it is accurate, but much of it is embellished/biased, and some is completely false.

      Delete
    2. Bailey, my first response is that yes, it is evidence - but what is it evidence of?

      I'll just throw in a couple of points:
      1. One of the books I've recommended is Rob Hyndman's Unbelievable. He gave excellent talks on Biblical archaeology, including I think many of the more recent discoveries in the book you link to. So both he and I are aware of those discoveries, and still had to reject the faith. He reflects on the experience at https://robjhyndman.com/unbelievable/ch11/ .

      "My approach was to comb the archaeological literature looking for finds that had some biblical connections, interesting photographs, and that could be explained relatively simply. The talks were popular, and the audiences were receptive to anything that showed the Bible record was accurate." (sounds like the book you linked to...)

      "It is easy to lull audiences into a false sense of security by only covering those finds where the Bible and archaeology match, where there are no unpleasant contradictions, or inconvenient anachronisms. If you only discuss the cases where archaeology supports the biblical record, you can imagine that there are no contradictions or difficulties."

      2. Historical accuracy just isn't a high enough bar to jump. When I reviewed what different purported evidences could tell us, I concluded archaeology couldn't tell us anything about the existence of God (https://www.jonmorgan.info/religion/2017/11/30/the-three-gaps-reasons-to-believe-the-bible.html):

      "Once again, I’m going to be awkward: It’s not clear that historical accuracy in some books of the Bible establishes the accuracy of other books in the Bible, let alone that it can tell us anything about the correctness of the theology of those books.

      The Bible is not the only text claimed to contain correct historical details. Of course, we expect history books to contain historical details. But we also expect it of historical novels, and of real life stories that have been significantly elaborated from a historical core. Like the Bible, many competing texts from the period contain supernatural references. It is difficult to see how we could establish that the Bible has a significantly better historical fit than other texts."

      Delete
    3. This link provides a fair overview of the field in terms of the range of views held by scholars.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_the_Bible

      Delete
  5. What about Israel?? I just can't get past it because it's so conspicuous!!! I'm trying as hard as I can to be objective about bible prophecy concerning Israel but....there it is!!! It hits you right in the face!!! Israel IS a modern day miracle right down to the fine details of EXACTLY what scripture has said. It's amazing and the more I look into it to try to find any fault the more concrete evidence I find. It also says Israel (the fig tree) will be a sign of the times before the return of Christ! Are you afraid of being wrong??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Am I afraid of being wrong? Not particularly. If I discover I'm wrong, then I'll plan to change. But if what you wish to say is "Are you afraid of future judgement if the Christadelphians are right?" the answer is again not particularly. As I wrote recently, even if I am wrong I think it unlikely that the right understanding will point to Christadelphian teaching, because there are many more ways for Christadelphians to be wrong than right.

      With Israel, I think you have failed to distinguish between what scripture says and how you interpret it. I did not think that particular interpretation of the fig tree had any merit when I was Christadelphian, and I certainly don't think it has merit now. But even if it did refer to Israel, it also states that those signs would happen during the current generation when Jesus was speaking. Why do you think it should apply now?

      Delete
    2. Bailey,

      Regarding the "prophecies" about Israel - how carefully did you read them?

      I've covered this in detail here:
      http://www.exchristovoiceofreason.com/2016/12/the-return-of-israel.html

      Like Jon, I see being wrong as an opportunity to learn. I'm not convinced I am wrong, but if I do discover I'm wrong I will update my beliefs accordingly. I've done that before, many times. I'm certainly not afraid of it. Are you afraid of going to hell for not being Muslim?

      Please let me know which prophecy or prophecies in particular you think match exactly "right down to the fine details". If I've missed any in the above article I'd be very keen to look into it further.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  6. Jon and Thom,

    Both of you being former Christadelphians I'm assuming would already know all the scripture concerning Israel? I'm sure you really don't need me to list it for you?
    So....we have the scripture and we can all visibly see Israel on the map. I'm also assuming you all have access to the news and current world events?? It's a mute point, there really is nothing to argue about here. You just choose to deny the obvious so what else can really be said.....nothing. We'll all just wait and see I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I know the scriptures. Even when a Christadelphian I thought some of them meant totally different things from the traditional Christadelphian view. Other passages I have realised since don't say what Christadelphians think they say.

      I say again that you have missed the gap between scripture and interpretation. Yes, it is obvious that Israel is a nation. No, it is not obvious that that nation fulfils the very specific terms of various OT and NT prophecies. But it is also obvious that just about every Christadelphian prediction since of what happens next with Israel has been wrong, and that the "current events" are not as interesting now as they were in 1967 (over fifty years ago). https://www.jonmorgan.info/religion/2017/06/07/the-six-day-war-fifty-years-on.html if you want more.

      Delete
    2. Well, maybe I do know "all" the scripture concerning Israel, or maybe I don't. That's why I asked you to be specific, because I acknowledge that I may have missed something, and if you have evidence I am not aware of, I'd love to investigate it further...

      In my earlier response I linked to an article on my blog that details why I don't think any of the claimed prophecies about Israel in the Bible have anything to do with the return in 1948.

      In case you didn't read that article, I will summarize it here.

      Firstly, it is crystal clear from the context of each of the biblical passages that the authors were referring to events in their own day, not events thousands of years in their future. They were writing to a contemporary audience, usually to give a message of hope to them that God would intervene for them and things would get better. Why would such an audience be interested in predictions of events thousands of years in the future? Of what use would that be? What hope would that give them? What modern believers do is start by pre-supposing the Bible was inspired, and then interpret the prophecies as if they were written for us. But if you're going to just assume it was inspired, why bother with prophecy? Isn't that circular?

      Secondly, the authors referenced events in their own recent past, and made several references to nations that were present in their day, but by now have long since ceased to exist. Believers may try to get around this by referring to modern nations whose borders happily intersect with (some of) the previous ones, but this ad-hoc invention merely ignores the fact that the so-called "prophecies" were grounded in an earlier time period that has now passed, without the fulfilment having taken place.

      The third problem with the prophecies is that if you actually look closely at both the prophecies and the events of the last century or more, you will find many points where they simply do not align. Many prophecies speak of the reuniting of the northern 10 tribes with the southern 2, which never happened. The northern tribes are now lost and probably assimilated into surrounding nations, making any such fulfilment impossible. Some prophecies speak of a return of a king who would reunite them and bring peace - but that hasn't happened either. Christadelphians try to claim that this part is still future, but you'd have to read the prophecies backwards for the order of events to line up chronologically.

      If you have to ignore every second sentence in a prophecy and only look at the vague details in order to make it "fit", was it really fulfilled? Or are you just applying extremely liberal interpretations to both the prophecies and the events of the past century in order to fool yourself into thinking there was a match?

      As a counter-exercise, have a read of the prophecies in the book of Mormon, and see if you find them convincing. Then read what Mormon apologists say about them and compare them with what you said above... sound familiar?

      Once again, in case I have missed something important, please let me know if you think there is a particular prophecy I should look at, and I will investigate it further.

      Cheers!

      Delete
    3. You also referred to current world events. Please tell me specifically which events you think are relevant and highlight the Bible verses you think they relate to.

      Your suggestion that we'll just have to "wait and see" is not very helpful. What should I do with this?

      I've looked into this long and hard. I really have. I'm not "choosing to deny the obvious". I genuinely do not believe it. If it was obvious, wouldn't the vast majority of people accept it? And yet you are in a position where only a tiny minority agree with you. How obvious is it really?

      I have nothing to be guilty of. I've spent a long time reading books and researching all of this. If I've missed some obscure truth despite my best efforts to discover it, what could I possibly have done differently? If I'm judged unworthy, well, so be it. I did my best.

      But the pendulum swings both ways. I also considered whether as a Christadelphian I might be living my entire life based on a lie. I questioned whether I'd still be happy to live that way even if the teachings turned out not to be true. As someone who highly values honesty and truth, my answer was emphatically, "NO"! I would not be happy to give up my life for a lie. And so I set out to discover the truth about reality for myself as best I could...and here I am. I never set out to stop believing (how would that work anyway?). I just plucked up the courage to follow the evidence wherever it led to. That's not an easy thing to do. If I ever discover that I'm mistaken, I will update my beliefs accordingly. But if not, I choose to live now.

      Delete
    4. Thom,

      First I would just want to point out that the vast majority don't accept this because most believe in going to heaven. So it's not obvious to them. There is also the fact that a lot of "Christians" don't read the bible or take the time to really study scripture. Now I don't mean all, just a lot. It also happens to be a fact that bible study and regular bible reading is less popular with each generation. John Bedson will particularly like that one :) So...no it's obviously not obvious.

      Delete
    5. Bailey,

      It seems you picked the least relevant point to comment on...

      In any case, are you saying it's only obvious to Christadelphians?

      If you are saying that being indoctrinated into a specific belief system leads people to think that their own beliefs are "obvious", then I might be inclined to agree with you (although as Jon pointed out there are a range of views even within Christadelphia). This appears to be true of all religions, not just yours, and this realisation is just one of many things that led me to question what I had previously believed.

      Would you still find it obvious if you had not been indoctrinated as a Christadelphian? It appears the answer is "no" (and it appears you agree). Thus, your belief that it is "obvious" depends only on your brand of indoctrination and not on whether it is true. I therefore think this is simply a distraction - so let's talk about what is true instead!

      Your comments about Christians not reading the Bible are extremely vague and hand-wavy. There are many millions of Christians who DO read and study the Bible, and who are every bit as serious about it as the 50,000 or so Christadelphians in the world. Why not compare with them instead?

      Again, Bible study and reading may be less popular with each generation, but the same is true among Christadelphians as well - this is a red herring!

      Getting back on topic - I did ask for you to please tell me:

      (a) which specific prophecy or prophecies you think matches the modern return of Israel, and

      (b) which specific prophecy or prophecies you think matches current events (and please be specific about the events too)

      I'm not interested in a debate of who is right or wrong. But I am interested in what is true, and would be happy to update my beliefs if you can demonstrate your claims.

      The point is that you came forward insisting that there were clear prophecies that have been fulfilled. I don't agree, and I've written several articles detailing why - one of which I linked in a previous comment.

      I am inviting you to either point out what I may have missed, or just simply tell me which prophecy or prophecies you find particularly compelling - and we can have a discussion about it. If I've missed something - I want to know. Does that sound fair?

      Delete
  7. Bailey,
    You, and Christadelphians in general, are using a form of the "The A Priori Argument" (fallacy). Christadelphians fall into 2 broad types, those brought up, and indoctrinated into a predefined set of beliefs with regards to these prophecies. They know no different to this approach, look at what we believe, look at what is happening in the world, make one fit the other, no matter how random, and see a "pattern".
    Type 2 Christadelphians are the later converts. For them, the cost of disagreeing is so great that they do not question. Eventually their thinking becomes as type1, primarily because it is very easy to find things that fit. Nothing that is "obvious" is being denied here. Christadelphians often describe the Bible as needing a "Key" to "Unlock" it's meaning (I suspect that they believe that they alone have this key). If a Christadelphian is challenged by a Christian, their answer is inevitably that the challenger has not done enough Bible study, and that all other denominations scholars and studies are somehow defective. So please defend your statement that all of this is obvious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It should be obvious to Christadelphians. I'm not talking about other denominations.
      So then what do you think about other denominations? You seem upset about this? Are you saying that you believe we go to heaven or burn in hell?

      Delete
    2. Bailey,
      "It should be obvious to Christadelphians. I'm not talking about other denominations"
      The way your reply reads is that unless you are a Christadelphian already, then it is not obvious. Why? Did God make it obscure for those not already signed up to the Christadelphians? Why do you think he made it so hard to understand?
      Also, from your comment aimed at Thom:
      "There is also the fact that a lot of "Christians" don't read the bible or take the time to really study scripture". Why have you put the word "Christians" in speech marks? That could be seen as implying that you do not think they are. Is this the case? Also, and more importantly, how do you know this "fact"? I understand (so I am told) that Christadelphians study the Bible in public meetings once a week, and claim to read portions of it daily. This is the same as my denomination, and I think most others, so where have you got the idea from that they don't? You say they don't take the time to study, but "they" do! How much time do you think it needs to do it properly?
      What do I think of other denominations? Not too much really, they are all Christians. With regard to Christadelphians, yes, unless they repent in time, they will burn in hell fire for all of eternity.

      Delete
    3. Some of the questions you ask I've already answered? It seems that your not a Christadelphian or former Christadelphian so why are you even on this blog? I don't mean that disrespectfully but what is your interest here? You don't seem to know the Christadelphian doctrines which are vastly different from main stream Christianity. So we can't really have a comprehensive discussion when we have two different mindsets on pretty much everything about scripture. I think the burning in hell fire gave you away. You should look up what Christadelphians believe about hell, I think that might be a good start for you.

      Delete
  8. Bailey,

    You said:
    "Both of you being former Christadelphians I'm assuming would already know all the scripture concerning Israel? I'm sure you really don't need me to list it for you? "

    I heard many talks but most focused on the same few verses and also this was many years ago. I am not sure I remember all the scripture concerning Israel - and I probably couldn't have listed them all from memory even when I was a Christadelphian.

    Sorry to be a bother, but yes I really do need you to list them for me. Please?

    ReplyDelete
  9. http://www.thechristadelphians.org/- List of doctrines with scripture

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHwj-rKOn6Q&t=1s- The hope of Israel

    I hope this helps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, this does not really help.

      I asked for you to list the specific scriptures that you claim support your earlier assertions. Instead you have provided a link to a website that may or may not have some supporting quotes buried somewhere in its depths (I only searched the pages linked at the top and no such quotes about prophecies were apparent), and a bizarre youtube video that was also extremely light on quotes - yes I watched it and took notes.

      This (again hand-wavy) response suggests to me that you are not as familiar with the actual biblical verses as you make out. Else why not give us your own list and exposition, rather than referring to others? You started out very bold and yet your latest comments have produced barely a whisper...

      Regardless, I will respond to the second link soon, and will list the quotes here so that others don't need to watch the video. It's quite strange - imagine someone giving a talk linking events from a recent football match to quotes from Harry Potter. It's like that. Perhaps if you'd been raised from birth to believe that Harry Potter books contain predictions for upcoming football matches, and spoon-fed cherry-picked examples your entire life, you might think this kind of thing was normal. But to everyone else, it's beyond weird.

      The quotes mentioned were as follows:
      * Isa 60 "the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far"
      * Isa 43:6 "I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth"
      * Isa 43:10: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord"
      * Isa 18:3 "All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye."
      * Ezek 36:11 "And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings"
      * Isa 45:20 "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations"
      * Joel 3:1-2 "For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land."
      * Zech 12:2-3 "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it."
      * Rev 16 "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet."

      Most of these are either duplicated or not directly related to what you originally claimed (not surprising since this was not your talk).

      All of them have been lifted from their original context, and then matched up with cherry-picked events from modern times, to create the illusion that this is all a 100% match and proceeding according to some divine plan. I can see why it's enticing, but it's not an objective way to do either Bible study or history.

      Rather, the picture that emerged for me is more like a group of people from an apocalyptic doomsday cul- er, I mean "sect", getting excited about imagined parallels between cryptic verses in their sacred texts and current events, without any regard for the historical context of the verses, nor the actual natural causes of the modern events. They see only what they want to see, and they bend reality to fit their prior beliefs. I suspect they would take a dim view of the many Bible scholars and historians who don't confirm their delusions.

      Delete
    2. I do want to say some things about the above verses.

      Firstly, let's talk about the "You are my witnesses" thing. Read Isa 43 carefully. It is NOT telling us that the existence of the nation today is a witness to the existence of God. It is saying that the Israelites in Isaiah's day could "witness" (or attest) to God's miracles that he had shown them (personally) in the past, something the other nations apparently could not do. The chapter is simply saying that just as God had apparently delivered them from Egypt, he would again deliver them from captivity in Babylon.

      Further, if the existence of Israel was at that time considered proof of God's existence, then why wasn't the existence of Babylon proof of Marduk, and the existence of Egypt proof of Ra? Both of those nations were far more prosperous than Israel!

      Wherever it mentions Tarshish, it really is talking about a nation called Tarshish - not some other nation that happened to occupy some of the same territory thousands of years later.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarshish

      Hint: its identity is unknown, and there are many candidates. Britain became popular as a candidate in the 19th century, which was also when the founder of the Christadelphians (who was also British himself) formed his opinions on it. Also note that several Christian Zionist movements were alive and well in the UK in the 19th century. Rather than miraculous predictions formed by his careful reading of scripture, John Thomas's predictions are perhaps more readily explained when you look at the socio-political climate he grew up in, along with the various religious groups he associated with.

      Anyone who thinks Isaiah 60 is talking about events in 1948 should take a moment to read the whole chapter. Read in its original context, this is a prediction made while Israel was in captivity, and it is clearly talking about a return from that captivity. The fact that their eventual return looked nothing like that chapter does not mean it's "still future" - it means the predictions failed. That's because humans cannot accurately predict the future. Shocking, I know.

      Ezek 36 I already covered in my earlier article. Again it is talking about a return from the Babylonian captivity (36:8 "for they shall soon come home"), and again the predictions failed (see 36:12).

      The remaining verses mentioned are extremely vague, especially the ones that speak of Israel increasing and bringing fruit. Many nations increase in population and wealth over time. Hardly a divine prediction or uncanny fulfilment.

      The settling after "old estates" is talking about the estates prior to the Babylonian captivity, not the ones of any later era.

      Delete
    3. Basically the prophets who were exiled spent a lot of time wondering why God had forsaken them, and the prevailing answer they came up with is that God was punishing them for past sins, but would again deliver them if they turned back to him. They searched their scriptures for past examples of this, which is why so many of them made references to the exodus story (which amusingly also didn't happen as the Bible depicted).

      If they hadn't returned, it's doubtful that anyone would be reading these texts the same way. We'd probably see them more like the ancient writings from Babylon instead. But they did return, and yet their predictions of what that return would look like failed.

      When they were again dispersed in 70CE, many Jews took comfort in the earlier writings from the time of the Babylonian captivity, and these writings fuelled a desire to return to the land. Jews have actually been returning to the land right throughout history, and there have been many attempts (not just 1) to set up a Jewish homeland there.

      This modern return had nothing to do with the Bible, except for the Bible's influence on Jewish desires to return to a land their ancestors once occupied (and Christian desires to help). People's tendency to seek and find patterns between ancient writings and modern events says more about human psychology than it does about any divine revelation. Many religions make similar claims, but they don't all obsess about them to the degree that Christadelphians do. Being raised in a Christadelphian environment does tend to make people more easily influenced by prophecy mania.

      Delete
    4. A note about the book of Revelation. I don't find historicist interpretations (such as the one(s) Christadelphians often employ) compelling, because they are extremely subjective and thus there is no objective criteria with which to measure them.

      If you want to argue that the interpretation is correct because it fits the historical events, that is circular. It only "fits" the historical events because you interpreted it that way specifically in order to make it fit! The interpretation needs to first be justified on some other grounds than merely "it fits". Meanwhile, other believers interpret the symbols as matching different historical events, equally convinced their interpretation is the correct one, and still others interpret the book using an entirely different framework.

      Meanwhile, as is typical on many Bible topics, modern scholarship has tended to converge on an entirely different interpretation.

      "Modern biblical scholarship attempts to understand Revelation in its 1st-century historical context within the genre of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. This approach considers the text as an address to seven historical communities in Asia Minor. Under this interpretation, assertions that "the time is near" are to be taken literally by those communities."
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation#Academic

      "The historical-critical approach, which became dominant among biblical scholars of religion since the end of the eighteenth century, attempts to understand Revelation within the genre of apocalyptic literature, which was popular in both Jewish and Christian tradition since the Babylonian diaspora, following the pattern of the Book of Daniel. In this view, Revelation was created primarily to encourage Christians to repent of their sins and to resist Roman persecution, in expectation of the immediate return of Christ."
      http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Book_of_Revelation

      "The author was not writing for those of us living 2000 years later. He was writing for Christians of his own day, telling them to HOLD ON! – for just a little while longer. They needed to remain faithful, despite their suffering, because God was soon going to bring history, and this world, to a crashing halt, in a cataclysmic show of power in which all that is opposed to God will be obliterated and God will create a new heavens and a new earth for his people."
      https://ehrmanblog.org/symbolism-in-the-book-of-revelation/

      Here's a good introductory video that also follows the same methods: https://youtu.be/8aBrXam36JE

      This makes far more sense to me, and is actually grounded in the very same principles and methods used to interpet all other ancient writings, rather than ad-hoc explanations explicitly designed to construct fulfilled prophecies out of one's fertile imagination.

      Delete
    5. I seem to recall, from many years ago, when at CD bible class, there were often sometimes quite heated discussions (no, bad tempered arguments), about interpretations concerning parts of Revelation.
      And now, I sometimes get to see the CD mag, and there are frequent disagreements aired between brethren on the letter pages over various interpretations of prophecy. "I`m right - No, you`re not, I am", written with a thin veneer of politeness. Who is right? They can`t both be right. Is any one of them?

      Delete
  10. Bailey, linking to a 49 minute video when asked for supporting verses is hardly helpful. If what you mean is that those verses need a lot of support to be interpreted that way, it only reinforces our point that it's not obvious. And the video doesn't go out of its way to reinforce its own points.

    But to me all that video affirms is my original point: A failure to distinguish between what scripture says and what the interpretation is. Someone is trying to convince themselves that the events of 2017 mean the kingdom is any day now, not considering how similar this is to past years when the same tired predictions were made with the same lack of sound interpretation behind them (and so far, all those past predictions have been wrong).

    I'll just list some of the interpretative jumps:
    1. "The sign of the fig tree" is Israel returning to the land.
    2. "Tarshish" is Britain (oh, and that they helped Israel return - very questionable).
    3. The drying up of the Ottoman Empire was casually referred to. Since the Ottoman Empire is not mentioned in the Bible, I assume this actually meant the drying up of the Euphrates.
    4. Gathering all nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat was (I think) interpreted as the United Nations in New York (not sure - I missed the logic there). Similarly, Israel being a witness to all nations in Isa 43 was linked to the UN.
    5. The "three frog like spirits" are the human rights proclamations of the French Revolution.
    6. Israel being besieged is also somehow related to them facing questions in the UN.
    7. A prophecy to the mountains of Israel in Ezekiel 36 is talking about right now - in spite of the fact that 2,500 years ago it talked about Israel's "soon" return.

    These are massive jumps in interpretation. I think it is difficult to justify any of them, and it is certainly not "obvious". Prophecies were given about the return of Israel from the first exile, and about events happening within a generation of Jesus. It is completely unjustified to apply them to today.

    On the positive side, after a couple of minutes I switched to reading the automatic transcript, and found such gems as "Christian elfine homes" and "brother Thomas wrote in Elvises realm".

    ReplyDelete
  11. I know you didn't link to it, but Youtube linked me "Bible Prophecy for 2018: What could happen?" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFRS48TnPaM). This gets to my biggest problem with "Signs of the Times" mania - people are so busy looking for signs that apply right now that they lose all sense of proportion.

    It talked about young people today "living in more momentous times than we ever grew up in as teenagers". Not knowing the speaker, I don't know when they were a teenager, but I just don't think it's true that the signs now are more momentous than signs in the past. I'm not sure they used any verses about Israel, but I don't think any honest observer could say the signs in Israel are more interesting than those in 1948 or 1967 (signs which have not reached the expected fulfilment).

    Favourite verses like "Men's hearts failing them for fear" pop up. This is applied to terrorism, as it has been for the last fifteen years. But I think it's hard to compare it with say the situation in Britain ("Tarshish"?) during WW2, or the fear the world felt during the Cold War.

    That jumps onto nuclear war, and the one point I would give the presentation credit on: Yes, the threat of nuclear war is greater than it was five years ago. But is it greater than it was at the height of the Cold War?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I particularly found telling, the casual way he stated that Israel has continued to take “a considerably more land than the UN partition plan of 1947” from the Palestinians…as a good thing.

    Yeah, BY FORCE, by bombing and killing men, women and children and bulldozing their homes…So much for the Declaration of Human Rights.

    And then he goes on to try and down play Israel’s human right’s abuses against oppressive regimes in Africa etc.

    The “world says” (he repeats this over & over) Israel is a top human right violator, but god, the bought and paid for corrupt USA, Israel and the Christadelphians say its ok, its gods law.

    Sorry, but I find that disgusting. You can’t steal a country because an ancient book, which has NEVER been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be true, says you have the right, Abraham promised. That’s why majority of countries want it played out in the ICC.

    ISIS have declared worldwide caliphate. Should we recognise it and give it to them?

    Is it in their book?

    And you wonder why there are wars in this world, men aren’t at war… books are at war, Religions are at war, or should I say, the Gods are at war!

    I also like the way he reads a passage from the bible, then says…”Ok, so what did we read?”, then essentially re-writes it with some loose interpretation, pushing thoughts in your head, and putting words in your mouth with no evidence to back it up, that I could make out. Seems I’m not the only one.

    I have not revisited this material for many moons, and now I remember why, linking frogs, dragons, and fig trees, written in a book, millennia ago, to modern day countries?

    If you spent countless hours, forcing a link with communal support and reinforcement with talks like that one, maybe it’s not so far-fetched.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "For they will soon come home..."
    And now, we interrupt to bring a message from our sponsor:
    I want to be absolutely clear that when I said "soon", I really meant in 2,612 years, when my son returns. Yes, the son that I already talked about as the promised descendant of David. Yeah, the one that sounded a bit like sinning Solomon. Oh, and about the servant songs from former prophet Isaiah that I haven't revealed yet: I just want to make it absolutely clear that while the verses appear to be talking about Israel, some of them are actually about my son.

    I also need to clear up one other point: the promises to your ancestor Abraham, which you may have thought made you the chosen nation, were actually only talking about my future son and those who follow him. So, while you may now appear to be my chosen nation, I will abandon you to the Romans, that people from far off Italica, and I will say that it's all your fault for not listening to my son.

    But lo, I tell you another mystery - not all will be so confused by these texts. For a time, times, and even more times the true believers will wander about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated - elect, but still finding difficulty understanding these texts. But at the time of the end I shall raise up an anointed people to be called the Christadelphians, whose right hands I shall grasp, and to them shall all these things be obvious. And the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet will turn on them and call them a cult, but they will rush upon every heresy like a whirlwind, with many chariots and horses and ships. Their conscientiousness in objecting will be a marvel to behold, and as watchmen they will tell all creation of my soon return. For I have provided something better, that apart from these Christadelphians you shall not be saved. But soon, very soon - and do I not call all times soon? - they shall see the return of the Lord, and shall prolong their days. Then all Israel shall be saved (even though they are no longer my chosen people).

    In the meantime, O fortunate ones far from home, strangers and pilgrims: remain in Babylon, build houses and live in them, and seek its welfare, because that is where I have placed you. And if with all your heart you seek me I will be found by you and will return you from your exile. But remember that that is not the true meaning of the prophecy. The true meaning is to demonstrate that my final chosen people the Christadelphians make correct predictions occasionally.

    Thus (didn't) speak the Lord

    ReplyDelete
  14. In case it isn't clear, I came to the conclusion before quitting that the much maligned "replacement theology" was actually a more accurate interpretation of Paul's teachings than traditional Christadelphian dogma on "the hope of Israel". Which makes it even more unlikely that the return of Israel in 1948 had anything to do with fulfilment of a prophecy about the chosen nation.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Well then, it seems like you all got things sorted out your own way sooo... I guess all there is left to say is we'll all just wait and see as I said in the beginning. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, ok then. Well, thanks for stopping by anyway...

      Delete

These comments require moderator approval. At present, it may take a long time for comments to be approved.