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FROM THE MAILBAG A lifelong friend of the editor wrote to complain that our standing offer of space for rebuttals is hypocritical, because he has written letters that haven't been published. The following excerpt from his latest letter (three pages), which attempted to answer every article in the spring issue of TSR, illustrates what he considers "rebuttals": Your article about the flood was stupid! What do you or anyone know about the "fountains of the deep"? Do you find it strange that the "great deluge" is mentioned by so many writers of God's word? Genesis, Joshua, Psalms, Matthew, Luke, 2 Peter, etc. The "Reader Reaction" page was one-sided! Why not publish some of the negative letters you receive? The "Virgin Birth Prophecy" was a farce! Matthew 1:16: "And Jacob begat Joseph, the hus- band of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." "To a VIRGIN espoused to a man whose name was JOSEPH, of the house of DAVID; and the virgin's name was Mary" (Lk. 1:27). Where is the problem! In the complete genealogy as given (Lk. 3:23-28), there is just a more de- tailed list, but no contradiction! I wonder why our scribe did not expound Isaiah 53, also Acts 8:32- 33! (John R. Owens, Route 2, Box 437A, Wardell, MO 63879.) ********** EDITOR'S NOTE: I was born and grew up in Wardell, Missouri. My parents' farm and the Owens farm were adjoining properties, so I have known Mr. Owens all my life. He once served as my moderator when I debated as a Bible-believing preacher. I regret that TSR has so obviously upset him, but as rational readers can easily see, he offers no re- sponse to the materials we publish. Like most fundamentalists, he believes that a scripture quotation should be sufficient to settle any issue in dispute. We will gladly publish any article he submits that takes a logical rather than the-Bible-says approach to rebutting our arguments against the inerrancy doctrine. ********** Dear Farrell: I pray you shall come to your senses before it is too late. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1). (This is a complete letter from Bobby Liddell, 4850 Saufley Road, Pensacola, FL 32526 written in "response" to our rebuttal of his article on prophecy fulfillment reprinted in the summer issue from his paper Defender.) ********* Thanks for publishing Gleason L. Archer's wonderful letter declining to debate you on the grounds that you are not a "seeker after truth" and "not really open to reason." Are these not remarkable statements from a man notorious for inventing (or at least promoting) falsehoods and fallacies with which to defend the Bible? In addition to Archer's insufferable arrogance, note the characteristic "thinking in tongues." He asserts that "you have nothing to offer your public but disillusionment and despair...." That is nonsense, but suppose it were not? Would that constitute a refutation? Is a message that is genuinely disillusioning and depressing necessarily false? Think about that, for it is the key. Secretly, the Archers of the world believe they control reality, that what they want to believe is necessarily true. They rarely say it in so many words, but they continually betray themselves to the careful listener or reader. ("Well, if you really want to believe we came from apes.... I'd rather believe....") They equate their hopes, fears, and prejudices with absolute truth and blindly attack objec- tive reality when it rears its (to them) ugly head. Please consider the preceding paragraph for publication. More and more, I've come to believe that my point therein about controlling reality is the key to understanding the fundamentalist mind. (Robert J. Schadewald, 13204 Parkwood Drive, Burnsville, MN 55337. Until recently, Mr. Schadewald was the president of The National Center for Science Education.) ********** It was a pleasure to meet in Portland, where I was able to attend the last sessions of your debate with Mr. Dobbs. Of the debate itself, I can't say it was much of a pleasure; it was about what I expected. Your opponent used just about every dodge in the book, and the audience was preconditioned to preaching and could not dis- tinguish such from a formal debate, as evidenced by the outbursts of "amens." Well, I guess my purpose in going was to see if there was any difference from the perspective of being there as opposed to reading a tran- script of such a debate later. It came off just about the same to me. It was the first exposure for this recovered Baptist to your old denomination the "Church of Christ," and it had a few surprises. In particular, a book in their bookstore was subtitled a "Debate between a Christian and a Lutheran." And here I'd thought Lutherans counted as Christians too. Your debate opponent must have thought so when he quoted the World Almanac's figures on total Christian population. This led me to research the denomination a bit. My biggest encyclopedia was not much help. It told of Campbell's Presbyterian and Baptist background and of his and his father's efforts to unite Christians. This hardly seems consistent with the "we're the only true Christians" attitude I experienced there. A better resource turned out to be one that your opponent used, the World Almanac. However, its entries in the categories of Doctrine and Authority were rather surprising in light of the experience in Portland. These are respectively stated: "Simple New Testament faith; avoids any elaboration not firmly based on scripture" and "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." Perhaps they are talking about another "Church of Christ"? It seems to me that the whole four-day semi- nar was nothing more than a series of such elaborations on remarkably unfirm passages. Seeing Rome in Daniel 2 is extremely far-fetched; equating Nazarene with the insults to the "suffering servant" of Second Isaiah is simply astounding. From what little I saw of the other lectures and of the preprinted book, this appears to be the modus operandi for the entire event. (From Earle C. Beach, whose address is printed at the end of his article on page 8 of this issue.) EDITOR'S NOTE: Although Mr. Beach seemed unable to believe what he discovered from browsing through the books on display at the debate site, members of the Church of Christ do believe that they are the only true Christians. Perhaps Mr. Beach noticed a popular book by Thomas B. Warren on display: The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians. Those "only" Christians, of course, are in the Church of Christ. "We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent" is indeed the rallying cry of the Church of Christ, but Mr. Beach heard me chiding my opponent several times on this point for his resort to speaking just about anything that would provide him with a semblance of a response to nonexistent, fabricated prophecies that I challenged him to give the book, chapter, and verse for in the Old Testament. Of course, he never did, because they simply do not exist. ********** I agree that Romans 3:5-6 begs the question, but Paul makes three assumptions unsupported by evidence, not just one: (1) the world will be judged; (2) the world will be judged justly; and (3) God, and no one else, will do the judging. When people beg a question with a package, I like to look at the pieces. Your analysis of Romans 7:1-6, based on Hyam Maccoby, is beautiful! No wonder Christians' brains get scrambled if they study the Bible too much! (William Lindley, Associate Editor, Truth Seeker, P. O. Box 2872, San Diego, CA 92112-2872.) ********** Mr. Till: I was particularly impressed with your article "There's a Living in It" (Spring 1992), which identifies the economic motive for keeping the Bible and the local church together. Another motive is what I call "credibility." It is difficult to have to retract some of the things adhered to in the beginning of a ministerial career and say, "I was wrong." It reminds me of the story of the preacher who had in his sermon margin "weak point here--yell like hell." Look at the cost involved--loss of face with the congregation who pays the salary, loss of face with parents who are proud of their preacher son and are now ashamed of his rebellion, loss of face with professors who taught him, and loss of face with his peers in surrounding churches. It is a heavy cost, and I am sure that you have experienced some or all of it. But my real motivation with this letter is to offer you some words of encouragement. We both know that even though there is an outward, negative reaction to your newsletter from the inerrantists, much of what you say will be retained in the archives of their minds for some later reflection. I can still remember some of the doubts express by my laymen some 25 years ago that caused me later to say, "Right on!" So it may take some time on the part of some inerrantists, but the seed is planted for future harvesting. I know that sometimes you must feel as if you are beating your head against a wall. Your weapon of logic is frowned upon by inerrantists. God's reasoning and faith are above logic, they say. So it is difficult to communicate with them on common ground. Somehow, they feel, this is superior to logic. So you have a tough battle to fight. But sooner or later, they will tire of what I call "do-si-do-ing" with words. I can still hear the pastor of my youth encouraging me not to think so deeply about the text of the Bible; rather I should have the faith of a little child. I have personally concluded that most of the clergy I know are either dishonest or dumb. During my ministerial career, I was "dumb." And for a while, I was dishonest--until I was able to resolve the economic problem and get on with an honest living. (Rene Corcoran, ex-Lutheran minister, 1489 West Decatur Street, Decatur, IL 62522.) Free... factor is the offshoot of the god concept that obviously exercises the most influence on our way of life. As long as that is so, we have every right to demand that those who seem determined to make the Bible an authoritative standard in our society prove their claim that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God, because that claim is the only possible rationale they have for their Bible-based political agenda. Without it, there is no reason why a society should concern itself with biblical precepts any more than Koranic or Vedic precepts. If, as we have noted, the truth will make one free, being a part of the process that leads to discovery of truth can be personally gratifying. We receive many letters from people asking for help in their struggle to break free of Bible fundamentalism. (If you are thinking that if they want to be free of it, they should just declare themselves free of it, then obviously you have never been a Bible fundamentalist, at least not the born-again kind.) Such letters delight us, and we spare no effort seeing that the writers get the help they are asking for. Just this summer, we received a letter from a young lady in North Carolina, who at the age of 24 had just come to the realization that the fundamentalist beliefs she had been reared in are erroneous. Her letter de- scribed a familiar process of gradualism in her discovery of truths that will, we hope, eventually set her free. First, she was bothered with the second-class status that the Bible accords women, and this had produced seri- ous doubts in her mind about the religious instruction she had received while growing up. Then, rather ironical- ly, a TV program intended to promote Bible fundamentalism backfired on the producers as far as this young lady was concerned. This is how she described the experience. Then, early this year, CBS TV did a special about Noah's ark. When I saw the advertisement, I rushed to record it. After all, they were going to show pictures of the ark!!! For two hours, I waited and waited and waited, bored to death of hearing second-hand stories of people who had supposedly seen the ark. After all, if they had photos of it, then these stories were not needed. But, after two hours, the best they had was some half-rate satellite imagery photo, which was not proof to me. I mean, if they can take photos of planets many millions of miles away, then most surely they could take a photo of something right here on earth. CBS was trying to help assure the faithful of God, but, ironically, their efforts only served to drive me farther from belief. The next stage in her transition was predictable: she began to investigate the other side. In her investigation, she read books about philosophy, ancient history, the mystery religions, and even evolution. Anyone who has ever gone through the transition from Bible fundamentalist to skeptic could, without even reading the rest of her letter, guess what happened, because her story is a familiar one. Once the mind of a religious fundamentalist is objectively opened to other ideas, dramatic changes in thinking will begin to occur. This happened in her case when her studies led to a book familiar to most skeptics, The Bible Handbook. Her letter described her reac- tion to it: But when I read page one of The Bible Handbook, I felt like a ton of bricks were hanging over my head. I read for hours, until the sun rose, and a thousand thoughts were going through my mind. Those many religious preachers scream- ing their threats of how I must be saved, lest I burn in hellfire, but I saw it was not so, that, in fact, it is them who lacks the truth.... These first 24 hours were painful hours. So many conflicting thoughts and anger for being lied to all these years of my life. Being taught that if I live my life in a certain way, that I will inherit an eternal life in paradise, and then seeing the hundreds of biblical contradictions. It blew that delusion of grandeur away. In this young woman's case, she had a brother who had already rejected the fundamentalist religion he and his siblings had been reared in, so she had the advantage of having someone close that she could talk to. She said that in conversations with her brother, she couldn't help laughing in her dismay about "how all these years, all the many religions fight among themselves, about who had the true religion, and it only turns out that the one they all oppose is actually the truth of truths. The atheists, of course." So why do we do it? Why are we so evangelical about our skepticism? The answer is simple. There are many people trapped in the throes of Bible fundamentalism who with help can find their way out of it, as this young woman has done. As long as this is so, we will continue to put our philosophical views into the free market of ideas and let the shoppers decide if they want to buy them. Our contention is that we have a better product than the shoddy commodity being peddled by Bible fundamentalists. From personal experience and the testimony of others, we know that a message in this young woman's letter is true: If you abandon supersti- tion and face reality, you will be a happier person. So what is so wrong about helping people be happy?

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