Perceptual Filtering in reading the Bible

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Perceptual Filtering in reading the Bible

Postby mitchellmckain on July 25th, 2017, 12:09 am 

This is a followup to a thread Ethics>Rationality in which I said...

In fact since psychologists have demonstrated the role of belief in perception, this is just part of how the human mind works so I wouldn't assume that this is just something these theists do. We all most likely do it to some degree -- with rare exceptions perhaps. Take me for example, I wasn't raised Christian or religious, but by two extremely liberal psychology majors. The findings of science have thus always been a filter for me, even when reading the Bible.


I wanted to give two of the most startling (to me) examples of this in the Bible I have seen to illustrate my point but decided that it really belongs in the religion section.

Genesis 6 1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Creationists and those who accept the findings of science concerning evolution are likely to read the above text in very different ways.
1. For the latter, there were no first man and woman of the human species. So if there were an Adam and Eve at some point in history to whom God gave a commandment then they were not the only homo sapiens on the planet. In the rest of the OT, sons of God and children of God are used to refer to the Israelites, chosen of God. So it is only natural for them to read the above passage as the answer to the age old question of who did Cain and Seth marry -- the daughters of these other human beings who must have been there too. And they gave birth to giants among men, mighty men of renown -- leaders in the birth of human civilization.

2. But for creationists, Adam and Eve were made by magic of dust and bone (like golems, frankly), and there were no other people out there. Thus they must conclude that unlike the rest of the OT, these "sons of God" refer to the angels who had relations with human women to give birth to fairy tale giants.

Example 2

Matthew 11 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. 9 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli′jah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


The difference here is between those growing up in the Christian faith and those who were not.
1. For the former, the evangelists are their heroes, going back to John the Baptists who first proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. So they tend to see the above words of Jesus as praise for John the Baptist and absolutely refuse to see it as anything else.

What about the part in red?

link: The point about John the Baptist was simply that although he played a very special role history -- a role itself foretold as one who would prepare the way at the coming of the Messiah -- this did not make him special in the Kingdom because that placement is dependent on the work of the Son of Man, not that of John. What greater honor could a man have than to be the immediate herald of the greatest event in all of history? And yet that honor and distinction is shown as insignificant compared to the honor that we are all given as believers grafted into God's family being made co-inheritors with Christ in His kingdom.


2. For the latter, evangelists preaching Jesus are not any kind of hero, but people who have often done terrible things. So when they look at the above passage they are likely to see some severe criticism by Jesus of John the Baptist. After all, John has not only contradicted Jesus by saying that he is not Elijah, but backpedaled from his testimony that Jesus is the messiah to instead ask Jesus point blank whether this is really true.

What about the part in red?

link: Since the least person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, logically he is not part of the kingdom.
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Re: Perceptual Filtering in reading the Bible

Postby mitchellmckain on August 5th, 2017, 3:18 pm 

mitchellmckain » July 24th, 2017, 11:09 pm wrote:Matthew 11 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. 9 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli′jah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


What do you see when you read this?

I am guessing that for many Christians it is very difficult to understand most of what is said here.

But the moment you look at this as criticism of John the Baptist everything becomes quite clear.

Matthew 11 6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
Why would Jesus say this here unless his intention is to suggest that John the Baptist had taken offense at Jesus. Like many Israelites and Nazarenes in particular, all they see is dirt poor Carpenters son with little education (let alone combat skills) and hardly material for the king of Israel which they thought the messiah to be.

Matthew 11 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind?.
Again, after specifically telling us that he is speaking about John the Baptist why say this here unless he means that John the Baptist was like a reed shaken by the wind? He was given a message directly from God and now John the Baptist is no longer giving a testimony of this, but voicing doubt about Jesus instead.

Matthew 11 8 Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses.
Why say this unless this is the reason why John has taken offense at Jesus?

Matthew 11 9 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’
...
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli′jah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
[/quote]
When you compare this to the words of John the Baptist in the first couple of chapters of the gospel of John, then the criticism becomes clear. When confronted by the Pharisees, John the Baptist denied that he was a prophet or Elijah. But in that case why did anybody bother going out to listen to what he had to say? When challenged, John the Baptist was pathetic and cowardly and his testimony of who Jesus was collapsed into nothing. He practically explains in first chapters of John why this is the case. The revelation from God was frankly bewildering to him, so although he did what he was told, he couldn't believe it himself.

Matthew 11 [i]11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

To me this looks like a criticism we can make of many evangelists. Given a marvelous mission by God they rise to great heights in the work of God. But the kingdom of God is not something you get into by doing great works for God. So in the end, your standing with God depends on something quite different: faith. Are you just doing things because you are looking for rewards. Are you like the rich man in Matthew 19:16-26 looking for the minimum cost for acceptance by God? Because if so you are missing the point. And NO, the point isn't about giving everything without limit. That is a misunderstanding also. Jesus' final answer to the man in Matthew 19:26 was this, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." We simply cannot earn our way into heaven. So what does God want? In Isaiha 1, Matthew 25, and elsewhere it is clear that what God wants is for is a change of heart, where we love people for themselves, seek justice, and do what is right for its own sake and not because we trying to manipulate God and get a reward.

What Jesus is saying here is that John the Baptist is an example of someone with a great mission, but in the end missed out because he had no faith.

Matthew 11 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.
And what of this? What can this possibly mean? To me it is very clear. After John failed to testify to Jesus to the religious people, Jesus was basically left with the zealots -- people who want to improve the world by fighting a war with the Romans. But in John 6 we see the result. Their expectations do not match up with what Jesus was really there to accomplish. They sought to take Jesus by force and make him king and then they abandoned him when Jesus would not comply. Instead, Jesus gave some weird talk about his flesh being the manna from heaven, the bread of life, which which will make them live forever. It was a spiritual message which made no sense whatsoever to the militant and politically minded zealots.


Back to the topic of the thread, however, this is just an example of how differently people will read things like this in the Bible because of the perceptual filters they have. I talk with many Christians and when you show them this, they simply cannot see it.
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