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Austin Cline

If Your Eye Causes You to Sin...

By April 8, 2004

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Although most religious believers won't like to acknowledge it, I must conclude that when a person takes a lot of ancient scriptures literally and as applicable today, perhaps their sanity should be called into question. The only problem is that this would apply to a significant number of believers and it doesn't seem right to think of them all as insane - something else must be going on here. Still, when a man is inspired by the Bible to pull out his own eye, it's hard not to assume that he isn't insane - and it's also hard to say that there is a difference between his taking one aspect of the Bible literally and others who do the same with different verses.

CNN reports on Andre L. Thomas, a Texan accused of killing and cutting out the hearts of his son, estranged wife and her daughter:

[H]e tore his eye out of its socket with his hands, said Grayson County Sheriff Keith Gary. Thomas, 21, then quoted the verse Mark 9:47: "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell."

Granted, plucking out your eye is pretty stupid - but so what? Why is it wrong to take that verse literally but not others? It's not enough to say that Christians, in our enlightened modern culture, agree with one verse and not another. Christians can't appeal to "common consent" to decide which verses can be taken literally in a sane way and which can't - at least, not unless Christians want to assert that our understanding of the Bible must be evaluated according to extra-biblical standard.s There are no internal standards which require that certain verses be taken literally and which aren't.

When a Christian says "he is insane" for taking one verse in the Bible literally, it seems to amount to saying "I don't agree with his religious perspective. " However, it has the added feature of using the mental health and criminal justice system in order to enforce their religious perspective against others by asserting that only certain religious perspectives can qualify as "sane." The same issue is at stake in the case of Deanna Laney who killed two of her three sons and claimed that God told her to do so.

It's arrogant and self-serving for Christians to claim that such people couldn't possibly be communicating with God and/or couldn't possibly be sane. Sure, I won't deny that such Christians couldn't be right - but I doubt that they have any good reasons to assert that they are right and they certainly don't have any good reasons to convince others that they are right. The most they can argue is that their personal religious beliefs don't allow for such actions/beliefs, but that's it - and that's not enough to regard others as insane, is it?

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Comments
September 29, 2009 at 9:43 am
(1) John says:

Looking at the date of the post and the fact that I am the only one to leave a comment. I am glad that no one reads your crap.

September 29, 2009 at 11:35 am
(2) Austin Cline says:

Looking at the date of the post and the fact that I am the only one to leave a comment. I am glad that no one reads your crap.

Because… everyone who reads would leave a comment?

You read it, but what’s significant is the fact that you were unable to come up with any sort of substantive, serious critique, rebuttal, or response.

June 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm
(3) Christian Slye says:

Austin,
I appreciate your concern with people and them plucking out their own eye’s, and i would have to agree with you that plucking out one’s eye is pretty extreme, but if you will look at the scripture reference Matthew 18:9 “And if you eyes cause you to sin, pluck it out and cast is from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell.” i would like to draw your attention to the second word in the verse. it says “If” and the point that Jesus was making is that you eye does not cause you to sin, it is jut an organ that has a specific function. it is the heart of a person that causes it to sin, and so the Lord is drawing attention that sin reign in our bodies and minds and so if you plucked out your own eye you can still sin. But what is truly needed is that we receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers to each one of us and then to move forward with a deep relationship with Him. desiring to have Him change our heart so that our heart does not cause us to sin.

November 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm
(4) Eric Villanueva says:

Hey Austin, I would like to take you on with a serious rebuttal. The Bible, like any literature or person uses language which has similes, metaphors, exaggeration and sarcasm and other figurative language to express a salient point that sin is eternally serious and must be forgiven. The passage, about hand and eye causing one to sin has been tragically misread. Jesus said IF the hand and eye cause sin but they are not the cause of sin, rather hard hearts are. Please look up Matthew 15:1-20 to get it. Take care, Austin.

November 19, 2009 at 9:46 pm
(5) Austin Cline says:

Hey Austin, I would like to take you on with a serious rebuttal.

Go right ahead.

The Bible, like any literature or person uses language which has similes, metaphors, exaggeration and sarcasm and other figurative language to express a salient point

And how do you distinguish between those and passages which are not metaphors, exaggeration, etc.? What are your standards and where in the Bible did you find those standards? I mean, you must have gotten them from the Bible instead of using your own, fallible, culturally-detrmined standards, right?

The passage, about hand and eye causing one to sin has been tragically misread.

Funny, but the people you would accuse of tragically misreading it might say the same about you. Explain to me why I should believe you and not them.

Jesus said IF the hand and eye cause sin but they are not the cause of sin, rather hard hearts are.

Clearly that’s just a metaphor, much like how a “heart” doesn’t literally cause you to sin, but your mind.

So if you can metaphorically attribute sin to a “hard heart,” an organ which does not literally get hard and which does not cause sin, then why can’t sin be metaphorically attributed to a hand or an eye?

November 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm
(6) Jordan says:

ummmm….I’m still waiting for the rebuttal.

November 27, 2009 at 10:49 pm
(7) John Hanks says:

The bible was put together by Jewish priests during the exile.

November 28, 2009 at 11:12 am
(8) Kevin says:

Eric’s claims are very telling. I always thought the Bible was the unerrant, divine word of the creator. Somehow I don’t see the entity that you claim is responsible for the creation of this magnificently complex universe, using exaggeration and sarcasm to tell his/her story. Clearly the Bible is the work and words of mortal men. After all. that’s all that we “know” for certain exists. Anything outside of nature (the supernatural) is pure conjecture and an untestable proposition. That’s why you substitute reason with faith.

November 28, 2009 at 11:25 am
(9) Kevin says:

Another point. I have been subscribed to this blog for a long time to read what like minded people have to say about the glorious yet slow demise of religious, mythful thinking. I never thought in all this time that I would be called upon to engage in a battle of wits with unarmed men!

November 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm
(10) Bob Wood says:

If the Bible is the inerrant word of God…why does it need to be interpreted ? Shouldn’t there be only one interpretation ? Just asking…(sigh)

November 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm
(11) Tom Edgar says:

Hold not thy breath for John’s re incarnation.

With nothing of substance to offer one can only expect empty rhetoric without substantive evidence to validate his continuing vacuous pontifications.

Just show us John, if you ever re-emerge, What, Where and Who is God? Just describe it.

March 11, 2010 at 11:52 am
(12) sean says:

So that seeing they can’t see and hearing they can’t hear. The answers have been hidden from you. God opens the eyes and ears to those who earnestly seek him.

June 28, 2010 at 4:00 pm
(13) Luke says:

This is another example of stupidity on the internet.
Austin, you cannot judge another world view by it’s abuse. All of the atrocities you mention in our article are hated by all people alike. They are hardly expressions of Jesus. You and many athiests alike tend to judge based on people do evil things that are an illogical outworking of the teachings of Jesus. You’ve effectively created a strawman just to beat up. Have fun.

June 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

Austin, you cannot judge another world view by itís abuse.

You are assuming that this is a case of “abuse” rather than something that follows logically and reasonably from the relevant doctrines.

In other words, you’re assuming that which you are trying to prove, making your argument a circular one.

You and many athiests alike tend to judge based on people do evil things that are an illogical outworking of the teachings of Jesus.

Feel free to show that’s true, if you can.

Youíve effectively created a strawman just to beat up.

Commenting on the real actions and real behaviors of real people is not a “straw man.” First you commit a basic logical fallacy then you incorrectly accuse me of one. I think you need to do a little work on what logical fallacies are.

July 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm
(15) Dave Y. says:

Luke, you seem to be confused or misled!
these XIAN atrocities WERE commited by XIANS, so how can you say they hated it, confused or just foolish?
bible thumpers are NOT inteligent people, thats why their bible thumpers, the IGNORANT congregate, thats why they are to blame for the atrocities of their church, they pretend it was gods will, and thats all the justifacation they need, not very inteligent!

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