Jason Finkle AKA JustinProfessor ClydesdaleFSPDecember

Thousands of years ago a series of written stories were compiled to form the grandest narrative the world has ever seen, otherwise known as the Bible. It remains the best seller across the world to this day and still has cultural and religious importance in contemporary society. Today we will be listening to a discussion between Ben Witherington and Marcus Borg who are the authors of our two FSP course books that analyze the Bible. The topic that our two authors will be talking about today is the presence and legitimacy of miracles and or spectacular events in the Bible such as but not limited to, resurrection, multiplying loaves of bread, and turning water into wine.

This topic is detrimental to the interpretation of the Bible because one’s position on this topic determines whether we should view the Bible in a closed system of natural laws as we do in our world, or if exceptions can be made because the Bible is above these natural laws.

The discussion format will go as follows: an opening statement from each author and then their rebuttals. After the rebuttals there will be time for a question and answer segment to dive deeper into the topic of discussion. To commence the seminar, we will begin with Borg’s opening statement.

Borg: Before beginning I would like to thank the class for giving me the time to speak on this important topic. I interpret these “miracles” differently than most because I do not agree with the framework of the arguments to begin with.

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I do not view these events as miracles, rather I view them as spectacular events. This is because by using the word miracle you are assuming that the world is a closed system in which these extraordinary events happen outside of said system that normally is always predictable. I simply do not agree with this thought process because it is too narrow minded. Instead I suggest viewing events such as curing the blind as spectacular because something spectacular is just an event that is commonly thought to be impossible but is not.

Borg: This goes into my next point about how I interpret some of these passages that go beyond even the spectacular. For example, there have been historical records of a blind person being cured seemingly out of nowhere, but there are no other instances of virgin births or water turning in to wine in human history. I would interpret these passages using my metaphorical approach, which means that there are no historical events lying behind them and most likely did not actually happen. In these instances, I would focus on the elements within the story itself and read it more symbolically. These Bible stories can be read similarly to any other mythology such as the stories of Greek or Roman gods. Truly, these stories are meant to be viewed and interpreted metaphorically rather than literally due to their content.

Moderator: We will now hear Witherington’s opening statement on the same topic and then there will be time for rebuttals after. Witherington: Hello class, my name is Ben Witherington and I am glad to have the time to speak to this class on this issue. Many scholars who argue against the existence of miracles try to justify their position by pointing out that there has been little to no evidence of them occurring in the past and that they never happen in contemporary society. To counter this argument, I would say that these individuals are just as narrow minded as the people they claim are ignorant who believe in religion. The point of these miracles is not to line up with what we believe to be possible otherwise they would not be miracles. It is clear to anyone who reads the Bible that these miracles are not supposed to make sense to the natural world.

Witherington: I would argue that these miracles are real and did occur because the whole premise of the Bible is that there is a higher power that creates these natural laws that modernists hold so dear to themselves. If you believe in God, then it is simply na?ve to believe that God can create an entire universe in seven days but cannot turn water into wine or induce birth from a virgin. If God was the one that created these natural laws, then it is not unreasonable to believe that God could make exceptions to them and allow for the miracles to occur in the Bible. The crux of the issue comes if you do not believe in God and in that case, it would be reasonable to not believe in His said miracles. Believing in these types of events requires faith like any religion.

Arguing about miracles with someone that does not have this faith is pointless because the entire concept of believing in God requires faith. People without faith are unable grasp this concept. Moderator: Now it is time to move on to rebuttals starting with a response from Borg to Witherington’s opening statement. You may begin your rebuttal now. Borg: Although I appreciate Witherington’s arguments, I find it intellectually disingenuous to disregard other opinions based on their ability to have “faith”.  Just because you think something requires faith to believe in, such as these miracles, does not excuse a certain amount of burden of proof.

For example, if you believe that one of these events occurred such as a virgin birth, it is important that you show me some evidence besides the Bible or your faith because this is a phenomenon beyond human capacity. You can hold it to be true to yourself that these events happened in the Bible, but to me they are simply canonical and metaphorical not historical fact. Surely, if you can show me a historical record of any of these events occurring then I would believe it, but until that point I would limit these instances as beyond spectacular and read them in a metaphorical sense. Moderator: We will now move on to Witherington’s rebuttal to Borg’s opening statement and subsequent rebuttal.

Witherington: I might be able to find Borg’s arguments more compelling if there was at least some intellectual consistency. By drawing some artificial line on what can be considered simply spectacular or beyond is frivolous in this discussion because it is subjective and meaningless. For instance, Borg believes that a spontaneous curing of the blind, can occur, but he draws a line at turning wine into water. This is completely ridiculous and leads to a confusing interpretation of the Bible because no one knows where to draw the line and it could always change as soon as some historical account of a new miracle is discovered. I would also like to mention that Borg was unable to refute my point about how if God could create an entire universe in seven days, then why can he not perform some of these other miracles?

Overall, I feel Borg needs to revisit his interpretation methods of the Bible because his current methods are inconsistent to say the least. Moderator: Thank you Witherington for your response. Before we move on to my personal decision I would like to start our question and answer segment. The first question will be to Borg asked by me and then all other questions may be asked by other students. Borg you seem to draw a line where you consider these “spectacular” events in the Bible to be read as historical fact or strictly metaphorical. How do you determine when an event crosses this line?

Borg: Certainly, it is important that I establish how I draw this line because it was a major point of contention earlier. Essentially, I draw the line by determining if there are any solid historical accounts of such an event. For example, in the ancient world there have been numerous accounts of the blind being seemingly mystically healed. So, I am not opposed to believing that Jesus or other characters in the Bible may have been able to do so as well.  I have a quick follow up question. Do you believe that it is possible that these said “historical accounts” may have been metaphorized as well?

Borg: Of course, I believe it is possible that some of these accounts may have been exaggerated or outright false, but there are multiple accounts that you can cross reference to prove its legitimacy. In contrast, there are little to no other historical accounts of events such as virgin births and turning water to wine besides the Bible, which leads me to believe they are not real events. Now that does not mean that there are no truths to these stories. An example of this would be like the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Although, this event did not actually happen, which is clear because there are talking animals, people can still draw truths from the fable as they can with these stories in the Bible.

Thank you for your answers Borg, we will now move on to a question for Witherington. Witherington, do you read the Bible literally or metaphorically? Witherington: Although, I do take much of the Bible seriously and literally, when people ask me if I take the Bible literally? I say yes depending on which part. I say this because there are some instances in the Bible that are clearly just figurative language and not meant to be taken literally. An example of this would be when it was written that the “mountains were clapping”. In this scenario it is clear to me that this is just a use of personification and not meant to be taken literally otherwise the people standing by those mountains would be in some serious trouble.

I would like to ask another follow up question. Do you believe that drawing this line between literal and figurative language could lead to the same type of confusing interpretation that you critiqued Borg for?  No, I do not believe so because unlike the line Borg is drawing mine is more objective and clearer. I believe it is much easier to draw a distinction between literal and figurative language than it is to separate mystical healings and turning water into wine like Borg tries to do. Thank you for your answer Witherington.

I would like to now ask a question to the both of you. Would either of you consider there to be a distinction between who Jesus was historically and who he was in the Bible regarding the miracles and deeds he performed. I personally would not make a distinction, I believe that they are one in the same. All the miracles and stories told about Jesus in the Bible are what I believe happened in real life.  Unlike my fellow scholar I draw distinctions between the two by separating them into two categories, canonical Jesus and Historical Jesus. Canonical Jesus is essentially the one that the Bible writes about. This is the Jesus that can perform miracles like walking on water and feeding thousands with a couple of fish and loaves of bread.

In contrast, historical Jesus is who he was in real life, he is much like a Gandhi or Martin Luther King JR. because he is important as he has set in motion major world change but at the end of the day he was just a historical figure. That is not to say that Christians can not still believe in the canonical because just like a fable there is truth to it but it is not actually true. Thank you for your responses, I would now like to move on to my personal decision on the topic of miracles. I personally find Witherington’s argument more compelling for several reasons. One of those reasons being that I must have to admit I am a Christian myself, so I do have some of that faith necessary that Witherington speaks of. I also agree with the logic that if you believe in God and that he created the universe, it is irrational to believe that he has either just disappeared or is not able to perform such miracles.

When people try to disprove these miracles by saying they are not in accordance with our natural laws, it seems to me as Witherington convinced me of, that they are missing the whole point, that if God was the one that created these laws it is more than reasonable that he could bend them at will. In response to Borg I found that his framework of the argument was agreeable but the argument itself was not. Using the word “spectacular” as opposed to “miracles” made sense to me because you dismissed the idea that we as humans exist in some sort of closed system universe. After the framework was laid down, when the argument came, that is where I found myself disagreeing with you.

Witherington in the sense that when you draw these arbitrary lines it just makes interpretation confusing and it is inconsistent where the line is even drawn. I do not understand how things such as mystical healings are realistic to you but something like turning water into wine is not. You may argue that there are historical accounts of mystical healings, but I doubt the validity of them and was not even aware that such accounts existed. Lastly, I know that you believe in God as well, so I cannot fathom how this on the fence position works because if you believe in a higher power that can do so many things, then how are these miracles or spectacular events off limits?  To end the seminar presentation I would just like to thank both of you for coming to our class and it was a pleasure to moderate this discussion.

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Jason Finkle AKA JustinProfessor ClydesdaleFSPDecember. (2019, Nov 22). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/jason-finkle-aka-justinprofessor-clydesdalefspdecember-best-essay/

Jason Finkle AKA JustinProfessor ClydesdaleFSPDecember
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