Sunday, 14 April 2013


Rape, the Bible and atheist responses so far...

I'm quite happy to stand corrected but from the feedback I have received from atheists on YT so far, since my discussion with EssenceofThought (EOT), I am yet to hear an atheist tell me they disagree with EOT and they wish to also affirm that rape is something which is morally wrong beyond a personal denouncement.

Instead there have been a few complaints that I was 'out of order' to ask EOT his personal view on rape during our discussion about it.

One reply to the discussion which has appeared is this one by the user 'CheekyVimto08' (CV). Although he does not mention me directly and so might have some other people in mind I think it's fair to assume it's aimed largely at me since it's linked to my discussion with EOT and appeared shortly after.

CV tries to suggest that theists are being underhanded by asking atheists about their metaethics (ohhh-ahhh - how dare they?). Clearly on this point he failed to even listen to my discussion with EOT since I made it very clear I was only asking EOT out of interest and that it would not be part of my defence of Deuteronomy. I made it quite clear what my own view was and, if you listen carefully you will hear EOT claim this is highly significant to the discussion. So if I am stating my view clearly up front from the beginning it is surely a matter of interest what EOT's views are? But even so I made it painfully clear that a counter metaethical attack was not going to happen once we got onto the biblical passages and it did not. CV fails on this criticism therefore.

At around 1 minute CV states that "objective oughts are a very difficult notion" which is a very interesting thing to note given that he is lecturing his audience on the oughts of proper discourse. That sounds very much like giving instructions in ethical behaviour to me. Is CV simply stating his preference for discussion etiquette then? Well his language certainly sounds otherwise. He appears to be suggesting the theist is doing something objectively wrong and that they OUGHT not ask the atheist their view even out of interest.

[A small aside. Whilst I accept that the atheist might cause a problem by pointing to an internal inconsistency in the theist's worldview, please note that this is atheistic presuppositional apologetics of the very kind they so often complain about when done to them. They stand back and insist they have a null hypothesis whilst the other person must defend their worldview. This is using the kind of Hovind basterdized presuppositional method in many ways. Notice the advice given in the blurb to his video:

"Turn any challenge to your moral ontology on its head. Don't try to discuss honestly with propagandists, as your explanations will be ignored."

Does that not sound like the very tactics employed by the likes of Hovindites?]

CV then complains that the theist fails to appreciate that a subjective or quasi-subjective moral ontology cannot be "meaningful" [c.1:30] but this is not relevant to the discussion I was having with EOT in the slightest and I never suggested one could not have a meaningful ethic if it is not a morally realist one. So why CV brings this in I don't know.

At around the 1:40 mark CV complains about appeals to emotion (oh the irony) but this does not happen in the discussion and so my head scratching continues.

At 1:58f. he says:

"It also seems amazing to me that our fundamental sense of morality should stand or fall with our success in giving a philosophical explanation of it as though philosophical problems are solved every other day."

This is a very curious sentiment and one which I doubt he would extend to a Christian arguing for moral realism!!

Then he gives a very curious complaint that he feels theists never really explain what they mean by 'objective' or their claim to moral realism. Perhaps CV is unaware that I have bothered to do exactly this in my following video which was dedicated only to such definitions in order to be as clear as possible in my ethical discussions with people:

CV then chides anyone who dares question the metaethics of people who do not "make pretentions" to have philosophical knowledge! (3:30 ish) Surely CV cannot be talking about his mate EOT at this stage? Not the same EOT who made a four part series on morality entitled respectively:

1. The Morality Of The Godless: Episode 1 - The Development of Morals, Values and Social Norms.
2. The Morality Of The Godless : Episode 2 - The Biological & Evolutional Explanations behind Society.
3. The Morality Of The Godless : Episode 3 - The Socio/Psychological Explanations behind Society.
4. The Morality Of The Godless : Episode 4 - Explanations For Social Conflicts & Wars.

Ironically the previous 'Therefore God' show had been on the very subject of metaethics as well. Suddenly, when rape is the issue, metaethics is now not allowed to be talked about! When it was an atheist on the show that was different.

CV then makes the ridiculous claim that I was repeating "You think rape isn't objectively wrong" for emotional effect. The reason this is ridiculous is that he could not personally know my motive for doing that in the first place. Secondly it would mean not taking me at my word during the discussion where I explicitly said the purpose was to find out if we were both in agreement on the matter. Ignoring what people actually say in a discussion and attempting to project motives on them there is no evidence for is not good form. How ironic that CV continues to take the tone of a moral sermon at this juncture.

From about the fourth minute onwards he attempts to give the atheist a few easy quips to equip the atheist in a discussion on morality with a theist. I encourage atheists to try them out and see just how helpful they are. However, coming up to the seventh minute in, he then suggests that atheists don't even bother getting into discussion on metaethics at all. A very interesting tactic CV!

He then finishes with some bold assertions about what theistic ethics can and cannot achieve without giving any real justifications for these conclusions. This is a poor way of finishing a video. It would be akin to spending an entire argument arguing for x and then claiming, in your conclusion that you have demonstrated y. The careful listener will spot this but some who might be lacking in such skills might not notice this at the end of this nearly 9 minute sermon.

To finish I think it is worth noting that despite all his talk of insisting the job of the theist was to show there is no internal contradiction his video did not once admit I had done that very thing and that the vast majority of the discussion was about this. On such matters he had absolutely nothing to say in his video. EOT completely failed in his burden of demonstrating ANY such contradiction existed in the Christian worldview. A Christian is not contradicting their view on rape as being objectively wrong even when they are conservative in their view of scripture since there is absolutely zero evidence of rape being advocated as something other than a wrong act in the entire Bible. EOT was shown to be using a contentious passage with various possible readings as a proof-texting venture and to be arguing from silence when, in pure desperation, he attempted to use Lot at the end.

I suggest theists keep asking atheists to justify their metaethics. The clear message is they have problems in this area and wish to avoid it by always throwing it back on the theist. The default setting of the You Tube atheist is that he will only want to attack your views. Don't allow the atheist to do that. Ask them to explain what they are proposing. If atheists are finding rape a difficult issue to explain in terms of its wrongness then this is one reason to have doubts about atheist ethics I think.


For more on the utter desperation of online atheists to misrepresent their opponents see this video:

Described as a video in response to my (supposed) view that I hold to "spousal rape"!!! Such people simply do not care about the positions they are attacking and have no qualms about creating straw-men. They know their viewers won't research the matter for themselves and read on both sides of the topic. Instead they will take what he says as being true without question. Obviously I never defended rape in any way and, prior to this pathetic attempt to misrepresent me, even said the complete opposite in discussion with EOT where I went on record denouncing rape as both objectively and absolutely wrong in all circumstances. Since I made myself so abundantly clear and DA has refused to take this video down, despite knowing he has misrepresented me, I think you get a very good insight into the way this man operates.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Bible and Rape

You don’t have to look too hard on the internet to see that atheist and anti-Christian apologists have largely convinced themselves that the Bible advocates rape. I found myself on a thread discussing this very point and I asked for one specific example of the Old Testament advocating rape. Most voices fell silent but one atheist apologist, ‘Essence of Thought’ decided to step up to the plate.

I want to make some remarks, firstly, before commenting on this matter.

If you have no respect whatsoever for properly understanding a book then it’s almost inevitable you will find things you think are wrong. You will dip in to certain passages with no concern whatsoever for authorial intent in favour of finding token sound-bites which fit with your prior assumptions in going to the book in the first place. Clearly this is something we can all be guilty of and this is the reason why biblical hermeneutics is such an important subject. Furthermore, when reading ancient texts we need to be even more careful and make some serious attempt to understand the culture of the time.

 Take Seth Andrews who calls himself ‘The Thinking Atheist’. He has a video entitled ‘Morality without God’ in which he thinks the mere mention of something in a historical narrative is an endorsement by God. He cites the story of Lot as if God approved of what Lot did just because it’s recorded in the narrative. This is an incredibly na├»ve way of reading the text.

Yesterday evening Essence of Thought and I had a discussion on the issue and you can find a link to the video on my You Tube profile page or by visiting the channel ‘The Atheist Hub’ [the video is titled: 'Therefore God- Does Deuteronomy 22:28-29 Discuss Rape?']. What appears below are some of notes I made in preparation for the discussion and a few thoughts I had after it.

So, in order to answer my challenge for a verse in the Old Testament which condones rape ‘Essence of Thought’ (EOT) offered up this verse:

Deuteronomy 22:28,29

Hermeneutical Issues

1. The first hermeneutical problem for EOT is that he is attempting to make a very serious charge based on a text which is debated and not perspicuous. A principle of doing hermeneutics in any work of literature is to go from the clear passages first and then interpret the more obscure ones in the light of those. Clear passages which describe a rape taking place are dealt with by making the punishment death.


2. A second hermeneutical problem for EOT is his method for doing translation. This was a truly horrendous moment for the supposed logic of his case. EOT outlines the various possible meanings of the word which is fair enough. The T-P-S root means to lay hold of, wield, seize, arrest, catch, grasp, handle (including grasping hold of the Torah to use it/apply it). Taphas (tar-phas) has a semantic range for sure but it is never used in the rest of the OT to mean ‘rape’ and this is a significant objection to those who wish to translate it thus. Unfortunately EOT’s method, at this juncture, is merely to claim that since it is possible to translate the word ‘rape’ that is should be translated ‘rape’. This is an incredibly weak argument because all the other words are possible translations as well! So what is EOT suggesting? That all logically possible translations are the right translations? If so the word means loads of different things all at once! This approach to translation is absolutely absurd. He suggests that there are more words which could imply force (such as 'seize', 'arrest' and 'catch') and therefore we should weigh the word in favour of these readings but this is not how real translation works. Context is the most important determining factor rather than basing everything on individual etymologies.

3. The third hermeneutical problem for EOT is that the immediate context prior to this verse does talk about rape but uses a different Hebrew word. The writer could have made it clearer he was talking about rape simply by using the same word. Instead the writer opts to change words here for one he never elsewhere uses to mean rape; a very odd thing to do if he was talking about the same action. In Jeremiah 2:8 tarphas is used to mean “handling” the law and in Genesis 4:21 it is used as the term for playing a harp or flute. It is therefore quite clear that the word does not have to have the sense of a violent seizure on its own. It would require something in the context to make it clear that such a meaning was intended and yet no such thing is said. Many OT scholars note these usages of the word which makes EOT's dismissal of them all the more damaging to his case.

4. The fourth hermeneutical problem for EOT is that some scholars think this a repetition of a law first found in Exodus 22:16 where it says:
If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.”
 The influential Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham takes this view in his article, ‘Bethulah: A Girl of Marriageable Age’ Vetus Testamentum 22 (1972) 326-348.
One again, the fact that so many OT scholars, even non-Christian ones, often find a link between these two passages means that EOT's mere dismissal of the connection all the more bizarre.
EOT’s hermeneutical case for his reading was merely that the word can possibly take this meaning and therefore this is the meaning. We have noted what an incredibly weak argument that is and have, in reply, suggested four good hermeneutical reasons for thinking this is not the meaning.
Even in this passage, which seems clearly to be more about seduction and not rape, there is no indication in the text itself that the Father is constrained to accept this arrangement. It clearly states that the man has no choice in the matter and is held responsible and culpable but it never says that the father or the daughter have no choice in the matter. Note that in verse 29 it only stipulates that he may not divorce her. It says nothing about any legal binding on the woman or her father. If, earlier in the Exodus law, the Father has the right to not accept the arrangement to his daughter in the case of a seduction, how much more, would we expect him to have the right to refuse a marriage in this scenario? It makes absolutely no sense that the law would permit a Father’s rejection in the case of seduction but not in the case of rape!
Furthermore, EOT shows no concern whatsoever for the cultural context either and therefore a brief discussion here is warranted.

Cultural Issues

One ought to take into account the reason for these case laws existing. Jesus explains that some of these laws were due to the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites and that they did not represent some moral utopia. Jesus says, in

Matthew 19:8

“Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Interestingly, one such passage on this very subject is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Only a few paragraphs after the one we are talking about. This clearly indicates that at least some of the OT laws were not an ideal standard but due to the existing sin in that society.

Another cultural aspect, not commented on by EOT in the slightest, is that these case laws could well be, what the scholar Christopher J.H. Wright calls, “paradigmatic” law. [New International Biblical Commentary p.244] The laws are therefore not intended to have to be taken literally on all occasions but outlining basic principles and precedents upon which to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. 

EOT also fails to explain why marriage would be the lesser of two evils even if the situation were rape due to the cultural context. There was no modern cultural notion of choosing a marriage partner as an individual or couple due to romance and love at that time. Also the woman would find it impossible to be married under any other circumstances now this had happened. This could mean the family facing extreme poverty without the support structure of marriage. This marriage would provide that financial support for the woman by the man. There is therefore no sense in which the woman is being punished. She is not being required to enter into some passionate or intimate relationship with this man but the law is making provision for her to be provided for so that she and her family do not face financial ruin considering what has happened. It is clearly a case of the lesser of two evils in this instance (that is, if the text is even talking about rape in the modern sense of the term and the case against it being so is strong as we have seen). Certainly the text lacks any notion that rape is something acceptable in ancient Hebrew society and yet that is the very thing the atheists are claiming here.

I think it is fairly clear that there is really no case to answer. The clear general punishment for rape in the OT is death. This makes it clear how seriously it was taken. It affirms the status of women as people and not property since death was not the punishment for violating someone’s property but recompense. The OT laws were also much fairer than most laws in surrounding nations of that time. In Assyrian laws of that time the punishment for rape was simply that the rapist’s wife was, herself, raped! Hebrew laws were far more judicious.

PS. A little post-script on the discussion itself.

Please listen to the beginning carefully. I made it very clear that my position was that rape is always and everywhere absolutely wrong. I went out of my way to be extremely clear on the matter. Please listen to what EOT says when I ask him to state his position clearly. Not only does he appear to not know what moral realism is but he is extremely vague about his own views on rape. It’s not even clear that he thinks rape is always wrong subjectively. I find it extremely odd that someone should be criticising the moral code of another worldview on a matter he cannot even be clear on himself and I think that is damaging to his criticisms. I also failed to find any atheist on the thread who questioned him over this either. It appears that many atheists are quite uncertain themselves on whether rape is actually morally wrong or not!

Also watch out for a very desperate attempt to appeal to the story of Lot toward the end of the discussion. Not only was this a complete appeal to silence but he used a highly dubious analogy of a classroom and appeared to ignore the fact that Sodom was being judged for its immorality quite clearly in the text. There is no vindication of Lot’s desperate attempt to save his guests from being violated and the angels rescue the daughters from that situation. The Bible is full of examples of God saving people who are not worthy of being saved. In fact, that is clearly one of the central messages of the Bible.