Fact Check Preachers, Commentators and Other Bible Interpreters

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Posts 570
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Aug 22 2018 9:37 AM

Many of us like to think we can trust the preachers we hear, and the commentaries and other Christian books we read.  Sadly, not all are reliable.

Wouldn’t it be good to have a single go-to source in Logos to check out those questionable claims and interpretations?

If you think this is a good idea, you can vote for Logos to produce it here: https://logos.uservoice.com/forums/42823-logos-bible-software-7/suggestions/17871697-create-a-database-of-biblical-issues-and-stances-w.

The idea is discussed in more detail here: https://community.logos.com/forums/p/133058/865216.aspx.

Here’s an example of a claim that didn’t pass a fact check.  It would have been much quicker and easier to check in one single go-to source: https://community.logos.com/forums/t/169335.aspx

The planned database will help you see when particular interpretations have become dated, when they depend on a particular theology, or when they are largely found in a particular country or even language.  It will show you the most common interpretations and which authors choose which interpretations.  Sound good?  Vote here: https://logos.uservoice.com/forums/42823-logos-bible-software-7/suggestions/17871697-create-a-database-of-biblical-issues-and-stances-w.

Feel free to add other claims that didn’t pass a fact check below.

Posts 9302
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 22 2018 9:52 AM

First, Andrew, I've enjoyed your suggestions. In my own Bible software, I've keyed verses relative to traditions and their theological structures.

That said, 'fact check' to make sure your preacher's opinion is factual seems bizarre? Even the base doctrines are old opinions. Ergo 'believe'. I suppose maybe an exegetical detail might be incorrect. Our pastor usually does 1-2 each sermon, none worth mentioning, even in jest.


Posts 570
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 22 2018 4:04 PM

Thanks for the positive start, Denise.  You often seem to be among the first to respond to my posts.

I'm often torn between trying to over explain, and writing something that contains ambiguities and then just responding to whatever misunderstandings arise in other people's posts.  Maybe by now I should be better at heading these off, and I can certainly see that this post allows people to misunderstand in the way that it appears that you have.

Yes, we are all entitled to our opinions.  And I can see that this post may have led people to believe that I was trying to show 'correct' interpretations.  I hope that the data I provided for Jude (5756.Jude Issues and Stances - 17 August 2018.xlsx), together with the graphs and other comments (7043.Jude Charts.xlsx3755.Jude Graphs.pdf8535.Jude Analysis.docx) show that this was not my intention. 

I hope the example I provided above, which relates to a quote regarding spiritual marriage (https://community.logos.com/forums/t/169335.aspx) shows the kind of fact that can be checked.  There I say that "This does not resolve issues regarding spiritual marriages and the interpretation of 1 Cor 7, but I hope that it does illustrate how easily scholars can mislead and how hard it can be to check their claims."  In other words, it will not decide between different ways to interpret 1 Cor 7, but it will help people to decide (or fact check) whether certain types of claims are true.  It's amazing how many times authors write "most scholars..." or "most commentators...", without giving any indication as to how this can be checked.  Sometimes it will be quite true, and fairly easily seen to be so.  In other cases, it's more questionable.

As another example, I'm not altogether convinced by: "most scholars agree that Paul must have penned this letter [1 Thessalonians] in the winter months of late A.D. 50 or early 51" (Anon, 2010. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament, San Francisco: Ignatius Press).  A quick look at the New Testament Books Timeline in Logos shows that a number of scholars disagree (e.g. Guthrie, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Malberg), although Hill, Peterson and Robinson may well agree.  Walvoord & Zuck have a wider range of options.  Thus, we can see that the Logos timeline is a little limited, as well as making it hard to compare options, and that the bold claim of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible would need a fair amount of data to substantiate its claim.  The database I propose would allow the claim to be checked fairly quickly and easily.  Otherwise, a wide variety of commentaries would have to be separately consulted.

Posts 570
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 22 2018 4:05 PM

Denise:

First, Andrew, I've enjoyed your suggestions. In my own Bible software, I've keyed verses relative to traditions and their theological structures.

On a different note, Denise, are your "keyed verses relative to traditions and their theological structures" easily shareable?  I'd be interested to see them if so.

Posts 1739
Gao Lu | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 22 2018 4:08 PM

I was recently preaching the story of Hosea and Gomer in an Asian country, getting really wound up, and my translator stopped me and said, "Did you mean Hosea was being sold on the auction block?  Or was that actually Gomer?"   

I was thankful he fact-checked me.  Not sure how that would work in Logos.

--------------

The idea is a good one and might be refined till it actually works.  I can sort of imagine tagging theological concepts or pet interpretations by denomination or theology description.  I wonder if such a database would be wider than it was long.

Posts 741
JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 23 2018 11:56 AM

Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?  [I was going to add a lot to that question to flesh it out, but I think I'll simply let it stand as is.]

How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee(Psa 65:4a)

Posts 570
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 23 2018 12:57 PM

JRS:

Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?  [I was going to add a lot to that question to flesh it out, but I think I'll simply let it stand as is.]

Quality editors, and a forum-like (and/or a typo-like) reporting system.  Remember, we're talking facts, not opinions.  [I was going to add a lot to that question to flesh it out, but I think I'll simply let it stand as is.]

Posts 5065
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 23 2018 2:12 PM

One person's fact is another's heresy. It is an accepted fact in most scholarly circles that Paul did not write the pastorals due to their vastly differing style from his unquestioned letters. While many more conservative scholars would say it is an undoubted fact Paul wrote it because his name is right there. It is one thing to say it is wrong for a person to claim the Ark was 450 cubits long when Genesis 6 tells us it was 300 cubits long. what again id debatable is what size is a cubit measuring me we are gong at about 18.5 inches but was Noah a shorter or taller man. Some Bibles do modern equivalents (CEB 450 feet--- NIV notes  about 450 feet long or about 135 meters long --- GNB 133 metres) so in the case of this fairly indisputable fact you can get 3 or 4 differing numbers all correct depending on the system making fact checking this figure not difficult for a human but much more nuanced for a machine, indeed i can think of certain unusual but not unheard of phrasing that also could mess up some automated system of analysis. Going back to the ark size I remember hearing a sermon one time on this preachers hypothesis that the ark was much larger than we think because of the better conditions of the time of Noah (as indicated by the remarkably long life spans) Noah and the people of his day were likely taller. This is speculative but in no way unfactual because in the end we do not know the size of Noah. And in deed we have other items like Mary and her mother status even into the late 19th century it was virtually a given that most Christians be they catholic or protestant took Jesus to be her only child (many older classic protestant commentaries i checked seemed to either be in favour of perpetual virginity or leave the matter open). Yet today most protestant and even a few catholic scholars affirm the brothers and sister of Jesus are  not cousins (or Joseph's children from a first marriage) as had been long held traditionally in the catholic and orthodox churches). But are the natural born children of Mary and Joseph after Jesus was born. And it is true there is a long history of people holding this belief, but what some maybe even the vast majority of Christians accept as a fact many protestant scholars accept as an error though even in protestant circles this is a relatively modern idea. I am sure we could come upon an agreement for a vast majority of things all Christians will accept as facts but there is enough ambiguity and variation of thought that leaves me uncomfortable where this goes.. Last night I read about one saint locked up in the 16th century because he was suspected of teaching a heretical view (his view was at odds with a local bishop but in no way heretical and in the end he was released without charge but only after many years of deprivation and torture). And while I realize no one here is looking to judge anyone so harshly only to help one avoid error. I am reminded also of the wise old hermit who when called to join a panel of others to judge another came to the tribunal with a bag of sand on his back leaking, and when asked about it his response was today we come to judge this man's sins  what you see are my sins following me. 

-dan

Posts 166
Al Het | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 23 2018 2:35 PM

I'm all for fact checking anyone who is teaching you something about the Bible.  I believe it is the responsibility of all followers of Jesus to check all that others are "teaching" against Scripture.  This goes for books, sermons, or casual conversations.

However, in a software application like Logos, I don't believe the company would want anything to do with what you are asking.  The purpose of Logos is to bring Biblical materials to people in easily usable electronic form.  What you are talking about is passing judgement on the "factual nature" of the entirety of what they offer - tens of thousands of books.  I'm sure that is a MUCH bigger job than they would want to take on, and I don't think this is practical, or particularly useful.  Also, of all of the things that seem to you to be "factually incorrect," it is unlikely that all of them will seem that way to me, which creates a host of other problems.

A couple of other observations:

First, if a company like FaithLife decides they are going to "fact-check" things like your example, should they not state when and where they feel like a commentator gets it entirely wrong in interpretation?  Even if things start out narrowly defined, over time it could easily expand to them fact checking general interpretation.

Second, as a student of the Bible, I don't want my Bible software fact checking resources I choose to buy.  I want me to do that, fully and carefully.  Your clarification example is one good reason why.  You may feel like it is misleading for a commentator or a preacher to say something like "Most scholars say..."  And, if that person is implying that of all the scholars that live in the world, the vast majority (most) say X or Y, then you are absolutely correct that what they say is misleading.  However, when I come across a preacher or commentator who says, "most scholars say," I assume that to mean, "...of the scholars I value enough to reference, most say X or Y..."  And, I doubt that most people in their audience believe that they have polled every scholar who has ever lived, done qualitative analysis, and are giving hard facts.  I think most people believe that this is the summary of the scholars they value enough to read.

Having said all of that, I would agree that statements such as "most scholars," or a variety of other catch-all statements for that matter, are far too imprecise for my liking, in almost any context.  I think that is a good and healthy criticism. 

However, I for one, wouldn't want Logos to dip into the "fact checking" business.  Just my opinion.

Good conversation to discuss here.

Posts 24466
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 23 2018 3:47 PM

Well this is a surprise - I am usually on the side of "no way can this be made to really work". It has been discussed in the forums before as a prelude to a BibleTech 2011 conference re: the now defunct http://blog.orthotomeo.com/category/examples/  There are a number of reasons that particular project failed, I suspect but the concept was sound.

Consider the "Questions" in Abernathy, David. An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16. Exegetical Summaries. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013, for example, where we are given items that are "disputed" and how various resources come down on them. Similar material is in the "Issues at a Glance" in Brown, Derek R., Miles Custis, and Matthew M. Whitehead. Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. Edited by Douglas Mangum. Lexham Bible Guide. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013. So we have evidence that something along this line can be done.

However, we need to start with a slightly different premise - the term "fact" here is pretty much limited to the letters on the physical manuscript, everything else is inference, supposition and deduction. What could be very useful is an argument map that shows positions, supports for those positions, critiques of those position and alternative positions. In building these, special care should be used to include the scriptural basis used by those promoting the position, support, critique, or alternative. The foundation must be built from the Talmud (et. al.) and the Early Church Fathers (Greek, Latin and Syrian). Then add Medieval, Reformation, and modern sources.

Faithlife simply presents the material much as they do in the Passage Guide - Systematic Theologies and Biblical Theologies. The features would be required to make it useful to the non-scholar:

  1. Ability to screen to a single tradition
  2. Ability to screen for positions held by <n> sources or more
  3. Ability to screen for positions held by church documents
  4. Ability to report to Faithlife positions held but not included along with the documentary evidence - this is required as Faithlife resources do not cover all traditions equally.

I would suggest that this project would be a large enough undertaking that Faithlife should run a proof-of-concept version on a limited set of disputed issues before making a major investment.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 888
EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 23 2018 6:10 PM

MJ. Smith:

Well this is a surprise - I am usually on the side of "no way can this be made to really work". It has been discussed in the forums before as a prelude to a BibleTech 2011 conference re: the now defunct http://blog.orthotomeo.com/category/examples/  There are a number of reasons that particular project failed, I suspect but the concept was sound.

Consider the "Questions" in Abernathy, David. An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16. Exegetical Summaries. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013, for example, where we are given items that are "disputed" and how various resources come down on them. Similar material is in the "Issues at a Glance" in Brown, Derek R., Miles Custis, and Matthew M. Whitehead. Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. Edited by Douglas Mangum. Lexham Bible Guide. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013. So we have evidence that something along this line can be done.

However, we need to start with a slightly different premise - the term "fact" here is pretty much limited to the letters on the physical manuscript, everything else is inference, supposition and deduction. What could be very useful is an argument map that shows positions, supports for those positions, critiques of those position and alternative positions. In building these, special care should be used to include the scriptural basis used by those promoting the position, support, critique, or alternative. The foundation must be built from the Talmud (et. al.) and the Early Church Fathers (Greek, Latin and Syrian). Then add Medieval, Reformation, and modern sources.

Faithlife simply presents the material much as they do in the Passage Guide - Systematic Theologies and Biblical Theologies. The features would be required to make it useful to the non-scholar:

  1. Ability to screen to a single tradition
  2. Ability to screen for positions held by <n> sources or more
  3. Ability to screen for positions held by church documents
  4. Ability to report to Faithlife positions held but not included along with the documentary evidence - this is required as Faithlife resources do not cover all traditions equally.

I would suggest that this project would be a large enough undertaking that Faithlife should run a proof-of-concept version on a limited set of disputed issues before making a major investment.

For me, it would still be very helpful if it were just limited to:

  • Positions held
  • Who holds/held them
  • Scriptural basis appealed to by supporters of the position
  • Links to resources supporting each position
Posts 31
BillS | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 24 2018 1:43 PM

EastTN:

For me, it would still be very helpful if it were just limited to:

  • Positions held
  • Who holds/held them
  • Scriptural basis appealed to by supporters of the position
  • Links to resources supporting each position

I agree with EastTN & will risk saying why.... by using a "fact-checker" we think we've fulfilled our duty to test the spirit of every teaching to see if it's from God. (loosely paraphrasing 1 Jn 4:1). We haven't. For all issues, it's helpful to know the info EastTN asks for. But it's up to us to choose carefully which we'll teach. To me, that inherently excludes the use of any "fact-checker" to the extent it goes beyond those 4 data.

Posts 9302
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 24 2018 4:08 PM

Andrew Baguley:

Denise:

First, Andrew, I've enjoyed your suggestions. In my own Bible software, I've keyed verses relative to traditions and their theological structures.

On a different note, Denise, are your "keyed verses relative to traditions and their theological structures" easily shareable?  I'd be interested to see them if so.

Well, Andrew, if identifying poor logic were in the cards, or obvious excesses ('most scholars being right up there), I'd be an avid fan. I may be mis-stating MJ, but I think she spent efforts in that arena. But Biblical scholarly logic is so poor, I'm not sure who would be qualified. Logos wouldn't. Nor me obviously (just to be clear).

My database is a bit different. I'm not particularly interested in 'correct'. Only in how you would arrive at a given opinion (aka doctrine, belief, etc). And then indexed to sentences (since I also include the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, DSS, apostolic fathers, and early NT apocrypha). An example would be how a group decided a writing was from a god (it's modern equivalent 'inspired'). Or why dipping in water has spiritual significance (baptism).

The low-level isn't intended to question. Instead, it's then matched to the datings (my neural nets) on the writing segments, so I can watch the development. 


Posts 24466
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 24 2018 5:56 PM

EastTN:

For me, it would still be very helpful if it were just limited to:

  • Positions held
  • Who holds/held them
  • Scriptural basis appealed to by supporters of the position
  • Links to resources supporting each position

I suspect that the data defined as you prefer would be very close, if not identical, to the data as I described it. In fact, my first reaction was puzzlement as I missed what changes you intended.  Many positions held are positions against rather than a positive assertion. From the research I did in 2011, I believe that the sheer quantity of the data requires screening options.

Denise:
But Biblical scholarly logic is so poor, I'm not sure who would be qualified. Logos wouldn't.

Too true, unfortunately. Not only is the logic poor, but they often use the wrong logic tool when they attempt to use logic. Crying You might enjoy Logic in Theology by Bartosz Brozek and Adam Olszewski

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 741
JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 24 2018 7:49 PM

BillS:
I ... will risk saying why.... by using a "fact-checker" we think we've fulfilled our duty to test the spirit of every teaching to see if it's from God. (loosely paraphrasing 1 Jn 4:1). We haven't. ... But it's up to us to choose carefully which we'll teach. To me, that inherently excludes the use of any "fact-checker" ...

Totally agree.  Be a Berean and rely on the Spirit to be your fact-checker.  "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."  Acts 17:11 NASB

Also, I would recommend the same series that MJ mentioned above, the Exegetical Summary Series from SIL, as an excellent resource for laying out the various interpretive options.

How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee(Psa 65:4a)

Posts 24466
Forum MVP
MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 24 2018 10:18 PM

JRS:
Be a Berean and rely on the Spirit to be your fact-checker. 

Er ... ah... Aren't you and BillS slipping away from what the request was for? It was not for determining the "true interpretation" of the text. It was for "most modern scholars say" .... I personally don't count on the Spirit for statistical data Wink

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 199
Gary Osborne | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 25 2018 6:13 AM

EastTN:

For me, it would still be very helpful if it were just limited to:

  • Positions held
  • Who holds/held them
  • Scriptural basis appealed to by supporters of the position
  • Links to resources supporting each position

This would be incredibly helpful to me.  And while I'd appreciate having Scriptural documentation from each individual/group as to why they held the positions they did, I'd just be happy with some resource that told me the primary theological positions each individual/committee holds to.  For instance, if I'm going to do a study on, say the book of Daniel, it helps a lot if I could find out whether the commentator of a particular book/volume was premillennial, amillennial, or postmillennial.  That one little bit of information alone would help me to quickly whittle down the commentaries I'm going to look at.

Posts 5442
DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 25 2018 6:53 AM

I think this might be very useful: 

https://babylonbee.com/news/logos-update-introduces-microsoft-clippy-correct-pastors-unbiblical-sermons/ 

This should solve the problem. 👍😁👌

DAL

Posts 888
EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 25 2018 7:13 AM

MJ. Smith:

EastTN:

For me, it would still be very helpful if it were just limited to:

  • Positions held
  • Who holds/held them
  • Scriptural basis appealed to by supporters of the position
  • Links to resources supporting each position

I suspect that the data defined as you prefer would be very close, if not identical, to the data as I described it. In fact, my first reaction was puzzlement as I missed what changes you intended.  Many positions held are positions against rather than a positive assertion. From the research I did in 2011, I believe that the sheer quantity of the data requires screening options.

You're probably right - you usually are. But for what it's worth, here's what I was thinking.  I understood you to mean that for paedobaptism, for instance, you would include all of the major arguments both for and against the position. You might get much of the benefit, with less work, if you just included the Scriptures most commonly cited in support of paedobaptism along with links to resources supporting that view - and then did the same thing for credobaptism. That would allow a user to research both view, but wouldn't require building out all of the links between the arguments for and against the two positions.

One danger of this approach for more complicated questions is that you might not see all of the various opposing views.  One answer might be to tag each position with the topic involved - in this case, you might tag paedobaptism and credobaptism with tags for baptism, subjects of baptism, or something similar.  Sprinkling, dipping, immersion, etc. might be tagged baptism, forms of baptism or some such. (By the way, I agree completely with the need for screening options.)

It seems to me that something along these lines would work for a variety of types of positions, such as the various eschatological views, covenant theology vs. dispensationalism, annihilationism vs. eternal punishment, catholic vs Lutheran vs reformed views of the Eucharist, etc.

So I guess what I'm suggesting is that with appropriate tagging you may not need to build out the "web" of connections between the various competing views.  Of course, you would lose something with this approach.  It could, I suppose, be seen as an intermediate step.  If you developed this more limited database, nothing would preclude you from going back later and adding the links between the major arguments back and forth.

Posts 9302
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 25 2018 9:52 AM

DAL:

I think this might be very useful: 

https://babylonbee.com/news/logos-update-introduces-microsoft-clippy-correct-pastors-unbiblical-sermons/ 

This should solve the problem. 👍😁👌

DAL

The problem may not be horrifyingly limited to sermons:

https://babylonbee.com/news/bible-margins-filled-heresy/ 


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