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Thread: The Bible and children: what gives?

  1. #1 The Bible and children: what gives? 
    Forum Professor serpicojr's Avatar
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    Mr. 425 and myself are having a discussion about the nature of children, the perspective of the Bible on such, and the interpretation of Bible verses in general. (You can find this scattered about http://www.thescienceforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=11067 to find our discussion, just look for my spinning LOL!) Two passages central to this discussion are:

    "Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. <sup>15</sup>But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14-15)

    "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Proverbs 29:15)

    The former was introduced by Mr. 425, although he only included the 15th verse. He interpreted Jesus' speech as suggesting that children suffer at the hands of the world and have a natural inclination to seek out he who protects the meek and lowly--in other words, "Suffer little children... to come unto me," meant, in his mind, "Little children suffer so that they come to me." (This, I believe, was used to argue that faith schools are not an abomination, as the natural state of children is to seek God, the sacred, religion, whatever.) I contended that this is incorrect and that Mr. 425's misunderstanding was a matter of context, vocabulary, and grammar. I interpreted the passage as suggesting that Jesus was chiding the disciples for whining about kids wasting his time. In other words, "Suffer little children... to come to me," meant, in my mind, "Dudes, chill, let me bless these kids."

    The latter was introduced by myself, although I only included the portion after the colon. I interpreted this statement to mean that children are not good decision makers, and this was the argument I was trying to make at the time. In other words, "A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame," meant, in my mind, "A kid that's allowed to do whatever he wants does stupid things." Mr. 425 contended that this is not the only correct interpretation and that my closed-mindedness was causing me to skew the words of the Bible to my whims and desires. In particular, he stated that the Bible is rife with metaphor which is to be liberally interpreted. He offered the alternate interpretation that children are so innocent and pure that they make adults, who are sinful, feel ashamed of themselves.

    I have a lot to say, but I don't want to scare off new readers with too much detail, not do I want to put too much effort into this post if Mr. 425 isn't interested in the discussion. So let me break down the points I would like to address:

    1. The nature of kids: Let me get out of the way that I love kids. Their minds are elastic and unblemished, they're full of energy, and as a result they're curious, inventive, and just plain fun. But the same qualities that produce these traits also lead to negative traits: quite simply, kids are pretty stupid, and kids can be pretty damn mean. This is where purity and innocence come in: generally, you can't hold kids to a fault for doing stupid or mean things because they don't know any better, which is exactly what purity and innocence mean in the context of children. I'd like to expand upon this, and I'm interested in what Mr. 425 (or anyone)has to say about what they think about kids in general and, more specifically, whether they think kids are pure and innocent and, more importantly, what they mean by this.

    2. The Bible and kids: I feel that the passages above support my view of kids. I'm interested in what other people think about these passages and in what other pearls of wisdom the Bible contains about children. More generally, this could lead to a discussion of the nature of the meek in the Bible, my personal view being that the Bible generally advocates a utilitarian approach to addressing society's ills.

    3. Interpreting the Bible: To what degree is the Bible open to interpretation? This is a can of worms in and of itself, but it's central to this discussion, as I clearly feel that the above passages have unambiguous meanings whereas Mr. 425 feels otherwise. It will be difficult to continue this discussion without at least highlighting the differing opinions regarding Bible interpretation.

    And a first thought to chew on... Mr. 425 states in the discussion we were having previously:

    Quote Originally Posted by 425 Chaotic Requisition
    What did I say? I said Bible interpretation is half metaphor, pay attention.
    If the Bible is God's manifesto to his people, if we're supposed to be able to learn about him and the world and the way to live life through this book, then how could it serve its purpose if most of it did not have unambiguous underlying meaning, intent, or purpose, particularly given the absolute nature of reality and truth inherent in Abrahamic religions? If God is a postmodernist and the Bible is one big metaphor to be interpreted however we want, and you get from it what you want, and I get from it what I want, and what we get is contradictory but we're both right, hasn't the Bible failed in its purpose? Aren't we no better off than we would be without the Bible?

    Moreover, the specific passages in question are, to my eye, lacking in stylistic flourishes; they're plain writing which, with the exception of some uncommon phrasing and usage of words, are straightforward to interpret. I do not see any room for metaphor, and I claim I can attribute your interpretations to misunderstanding of context, vocabulary, and grammar.


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    Your over analysing, its just a book. A little book that comes in many shapes and forms. It doesn't matter what words, context are in the books, its the words that connect us to reality and how life is lived, in that way everyone has their unique interpretation of The Bible. Its your book, a book that has no ulteria motive, no ending. Its there for you to teach you stories that can help you in your life. However much you use context vocabulary or grammer serpico, it will always be interpreteted by everyone differently. Me and you arguing about it, would be the same as Osama Bin Laden and George Bush arguing about what they think it means. This is pointless and trivial, I don't know you, you don't know me, people who read this the same and proably never will, and they most likely don't give a damn anyway, because they either don't care, or have their own interpretation and even if they listened to you, they'd still adapt it to their own philosiphy. So let me ask you Serpico;

    What is your reason for addressing the points you have mentioned?


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    serpicojr wrote:
    If the Bible is God's manifesto to his people, if we're supposed to be able to learn about him and the world and the way to live life through this book, then how could it serve its purpose if most of it did not have unambiguous underlying meaning, intent, or purpose, particularly given the absolute nature of reality and truth inherent in Abrahamic religions?
    If most of it had unambiguous underlying meaning, intent or purpose it would not survive to the modern day.
    If we were able to resurrect a scholar of 1,000 years ago, he would surely condemn our current interpretation of the Bible, or any religious text.
    If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism
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  5. #4 Re: The Bible and children: what gives? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by serpicojr
    The former was introduced by Mr. 425, although he only included the 15th verse. He interpreted Jesus' speech as suggesting that children suffer at the hands of the world and have a natural inclination to seek out he who protects the meek and lowly--in other words, "Suffer little children... to come unto me," meant, in his mind, "Little children suffer so that they come to me." .
    Mr. 425 simply does not know this definition of the word suffer:
    "to allow especially by reason of indifference <the eagle suffers little birds to sing — Shakespeare>"
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    Quote Originally Posted by 425 Chaotic Requisition
    Your over analysing, its just a book. A little book that comes in many shapes and forms. It doesn't matter what words, context are in the books, its the words that connect us to reality and how life is lived, in that way everyone has their unique interpretation of The Bible. Its your book, a book that has no ulteria motive, no ending. Its there for you to teach you stories that can help you in your life. However much you use context vocabulary or grammer serpico, it will always be interpreteted by everyone differently. Me and you arguing about it, would be the same as Osama Bin Laden and George Bush arguing about what they think it means. This is pointless and trivial, I don't know you, you don't know me, people who read this the same and proably never will, and they most likely don't give a damn anyway, because they either don't care, or have their own interpretation and even if they listened to you, they'd still adapt it to their own philosiphy. So let me ask you Serpico;

    What is your reason for addressing the points you have mentioned?
    You were the first one to offer up a Bible verse as evidence for an argument you were making--you used the "little children" quote to support the idea that children can make decisions themselves. In doing so, you were implicitly saying that your interpretation was correct and that the verse you quoted had unambiguous meaning. You cannot backtrack now unless you do believe that you can quote a source and then knowingly put your own interpretive meaning into the quote and disavow the fact that the source may have absolute meaning, purpose, or intent. If that is the case, then this discussion is pointless, and you have a lot to learn about using sources in your arguments. At the end of the day, I want you to realize that you can't whip around arguments and quotes and then act all indignant when you're called out on them and asked to support them. If your stance is that it's pointless to do so, then why do you bother engaging in discussion on this forum?

    Now I'm engaging in this discussion because I am legitimately interested in your stances on the points I raise above. We were having an interesting discussion, I thought, and so I decided to pull out what I thought were the important issues we were talking about and set them on the table. I am trying to enjoy this in a friendly manner.

    I'm interested in what people think about kids--specifically, what sort of agency kids deserve over their own lives. I clearly think kids shouldn't have much, you think the opposite. I'd like to dig deeper.

    Since we were initially using religion as the context for discussing kids' agency, and since you and I were originally using the Bible to support our arguments, I thought it would be appropriate to continue this discussion in this context. It's nice to have an informed debate, and clearly the Bible is a shared piece of information between the two of us, so why not use it for the basis of this discussion?

    And if we're going to be using the Bible as the basis for this discussion, then we have to make it clear what we think about the Bible as a source of support. I think we can debate and come to a consensus about what specific verses mean. You, evidently, don't. We can try to continue the discussion despite this difference, although it may make quoting the Bible difficult, seeing as whenever I ask you to support your interpretation, you just hit back with, "Anyone can interpret the Bible however they want."

    Grammar, vocabulary, and context are very important here. You cannot ignore them. If you'll indulge me, let me dissect the "little children" quote and your interpretation thereof...

    If the word "suffer" meant "endure pain" in this context, as you suggest, then the sentence, "Suffer little children... to come unto me," would make no sense due to its structure. If we interpret it as a declarative, it would mean, "Kids endure pain to see me." This does not make sense in the story that is being told--these kids are just coming along with some adults, no pain is to be seen. If we interpret it as an imperative (which it is), this would mean, "Kids, endure pain to see me," if spoke to the children, or, "Disciples, endure the pain of kids seeing me." The former makes no sense. The latter makes more sense, and makes the most sense when you realize that suffer can also mean what Harold suggests (thanks Harold, I'm glad someone sees my point). To understand the sentence, we have to understand the vocabulary being used in it; to deduce this, we have to study the grammar being used in the sentence in order to establish the meaning of the sentence; to see whether the sentence makes sense, we have to look at the larger context of the paragraph or chapter in which the sentence sits.

    I'm not trying to be overly pedantic, but if you're going to question the role of language in interpretation and understanding, I really have no choice but to get all nit-picky.

    Quote Originally Posted by prasit
    If most of it had unambiguous underlying meaning, intent or purpose it would not survive to the modern day.
    If we were able to resurrect a scholar of 1,000 years ago, he would surely condemn our current interpretation of the Bible, or any religious text.
    You're right. I realize now I was using "unambiguous" to mean "definite". Apologies for that. I claim that the Bible has definite meaning, but that meaning is certainly not always obvious.
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