Sample clip of my debate with an
atheist on the issue of morality.
Find the whole debate at this link
"Beyond Interfaith" - The Eshim Sham Shimmy, part 1 of 5
This essay is the introduction to and first step in my considering the teachings and premises of a philosophy known as "Beyond Interfaith" which will eventually consist of five parts.
This segment will serve as the "Definition of 'Beyond Interfaith' and 'Eshim" and "Problematic Proclamations" I am constantly being reminded of Gilbert Keith Chesterton's statement:
"...all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind..."1 [for a fuller quote see the end of this essay]
Beyond Interfaith2 (hereinafter BI) is a philosophy that was conceived by Kyle Lewis who, it seems to me, is a nice person making an attempt to encourage people to do good. What could be wrong with that? My main concern is that it is a philosophy peppered with inaccuracies and contradictions. Therefore, my concern is that we cannot accomplish the task which BI puts forth if it remains premised upon various fallacies-pragmatism is not a virtue.
Definition of "Beyond Interfaith" and "Eshim" BI is the secular term that Mr. Lewis chose in place of "Eshim." He described Eshim thusly:
"The term 'Eshim' is symbolic term borrowed from Jewish Kabbalah. In the Kabbalah, each sphere on the Tree of Life has a choir of angels associated with it, and the Eshim, the 'souls of fire', are said to be the angels associated with the tenth sphere, Malkuth, 'Kingdom', the physical world. This world. Some have said that the Eshim are the souls of the righteous--human beings living in goodness and virtue_.It is this concept that I wish to inspire. If the Eshim are the angels of the material world, if they are the righteous souls, why can they not be humanity itself? Can we not awaken this sleeping choir?"
Since he seeks to appeal to all persons-theistic, atheistic and all in between-he chose the more neutral term BI.
Problematic Proclamations Mr. Lewis seeks to lay out our responsibility towards each other and presents the first inaccuracy that I wish to address:
"The first question in the Bible is in Genesis 4:9, when Cain asks: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' I have heard it said that the rest of the Bible is the answer to that: 'Yes!'"
This question is not the "first question in the Bible" but is the tenth. The questions appear in this order:
Genesis 2:1 "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"Genesis 2:9 "Where are you?"Genesis 2:11 "Who told you that you were naked?" Genesis 2:11 "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"Genesis 2:13 "What is this you have done?"Genesis 3:6 "Why are you angry?" Genesis 3:6 "And why has your countenance fallen?" Genesis3:7 "If you do well, will you not be accepted?" Genesis 2:9 "Where is Abel your brother?"Genesis 2:9 "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"
While this inaccuracy is not detrimental to his point, it is important to point out for the very sake of accuracy. It may be of interest to take careful notice that the "first question in the Bible" was asked by satan in order to call into question God's revelation, "Has God indeed said_"
One of the main contradictions I see within BI is it besmirches fundamentalism whilst expressing its own fundamentalism. We may say that "all denunciation of fundamentalism implies an equal and opposite fundamentalism." This fallacy is worsened by a fundamental misunderstanding of fundamentalism (pun intended). Thus, let us go to the discussion of fundamentalism and then see how it is applied.
"The term 'fundamentalism' can be used to mean different things. By this term, I am referring to any belief system that holds its sacred scripture to be literal, unerring truth, the only truth, and nothing but the truth, with no room for interpretation, and no room for other belief systems. From Wikipedia's entry on fundamentalism: 'For religious fundamentalists_Since Scripture is considered the word of God, fundamentalists believe that no person has the right to change it or disagree with it. As a result, people are 'obliged' to obey the word of God."
Unfortunately, both Mr. Lewis and Wikipedia are mistaken, they are utilizing definitions that no one recognizes and no one applies to themselves. Let us imagine the most stereotypical Bible-belt backwards country Bible-thumping born-again evangelical Bible literalist fundamentalist. Even they would tell you that it is inaccurate to state that fundamentalists hold that there is "no room for interpretation," "no room for other belief systems," that "no person has the right to_disagree with" the Bible or that "people are 'obliged' to obey the word of God."
The reasons that this is incorrect are that to interpret means "to make clear, to elucidate" for example, "Ezra_read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped [them] to understand the reading" (Nehemiah 8:2-9). To give the sense and help to understand is to interpret. Secondly the very moment that someone asks "What does that mean" behold, an interpretation has been born (see these two essays How do You Read the Bible? and All Interpretations Are Not Created Equal).
Moreover, the fundamentalist understands the biblical concept of free will and the Bible's statements that not everyone will believe. Therefore, there is "room for other belief systems" even though they are considered faulty, they have "the right to_disagree" although they are considered mistaken and freewill means that people are not "'obliged' to obey the word of God."
Mr. Lewis has a preference for fundamentalists who do "not believe that everything in scripture is applicable today." But no one, fundamentalist or not, believes "that everything in scripture is applicable today." Not even the Bible itself makes such a claim. For example there were specific laws that were strictly applicable only to Jewish people, living millennia ago, under a particular governmental system, in a particular geographical locality.
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