I listen to podcasts. Today I heard the argument from context on two different shows: The Halli Casser-Jayne Show and Dogma Debate.
The Halli Casser-Jayne Show featured an interview with Mubin Shaikh, apparently a "former militant jihadi turned undercover agent" who argued that the militants in ISIS/ISIL have taken sections of Muslim holy texts out of context in order to move their Islamic State forward. Starting around the 15:00 mark, Mubin speaks,
It goes on. He insults those who "misunderstand," who do "superficial shallow readings," and "ignore contexts." It's some classic "No True Scotsman" stuff. In effect, he's saying "They get it all wrong because they hold to an ideology that doesn't respect context."
Later in the evening, while walking the dog, I was listening to Dogma Debate. A pastor claimed that we need to appreciate "context" in order to understand God's orders in order to understand the creation myth and whatnot. Starting around the 59 minute mark, the pastor says,
I heard arguments like this a lot growing up. "You need to take the Bible in context" is how I usually heard it, and there was never any need to have discussions like this if there wasn't some serious logical or ethical confusion. This discussion took place after reading about Yahweh's many murders and massacres and whatnot. Always, when God acted like a jerk, or humans got credit for unethical behavior, somebody would say "You have to take it in context."
There are a few problems with the argument from context.
Really, that's the crux of it. No god worth worshipping would leave it up to us to interpret so many layers of context. A worship-worthy god would just tell us. Gods who can't take "context" into account aren't worthy of praise.
The argument from context should always be a red flag: it always attempts to justify bad behavior or incompetence. I can't think of any other purpose for the technique.
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