Blogging with Dr. Barry Part 5 ( Michael Heiser Responds )
Sorry I got away from the “Blogging with Barry” series. I have to
admit I’m getting a little bored with it, especially given the
startlingly poor logic Dr. Downing is bringing forth to defend his
ideas (it just gets repetitive). I think for what remains of his
original post to which I’m repsonding, I’ll just insert a note when
readers can find what I’d say in an earlier post — posts 1-4).
Same procedure. Unless it is preceded by “MSH” the words are Barry’s.
WE NEED A SIGN FROM GOD
It seems to me we need a sign from God., but if God gave us a sign,
would we have the spiritual wisdom to interpret the sign properly, or
would the church be embarrassed by its blindness?
MSH: It might just be blessed by its discernment. Just
because the church isn’t *seeing* the same “sign” that you are doesn’t
mean it’s wrong or blind.
The church in the world now seems to have little interest in seeking
a sign from God. That might be a good thing, since Jesus says an evil
and adulterous generation seeks a sign. (Mt. 16:1-4)
But my sense is our modern generation, including the modern church, is
so evil and adulterous that we do not even recognize the fabulous sign
from God which we have been given as a wonderful gift of grace to renew
the faith of our faithless generation. I suspect that if the signs that
have been to our generation had been given to Sodom, the city would
have repented. (Mt. 11:20-24)
How faithless is our generation? Books by atheists like Sam Harris
(The End of Faith), Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How
Religion Poisons Everything), and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion),
have sold wonderfully to a generation in love with the scientific idol
that we have created with our own hands. That idol threatens to destroy
us all in one big nuclear blast, of course.
Here is Richard Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably
the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it;
a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive bloodthirsty
ethnic cleanser ….” (The God Delusion, p. 31) Dawkins is best known for
his promotion of the theory of evolution, and has done battle with
Christian creationists and intelligent design advocates. He is to
England what Carl Sagan was to the United States.
Notice that Dawkins is not just an atheist, he describes himself as
an evangelist for atheism, and he thinks that it is bad for us to allow
anyone to even go on believing in the God of the Bible. Can we suppose
for a moment that none of the thinking of Dawkins, even if he is not
named, does not spill into the class rooms of our public schools, and
our universities? Are we surprised that a kind of nihilism has broken
out among our students, who sometimes express their despair by shooting
a few classmates (instead of expressing nihilism in the approved way,
by shopping addictively?)
Modern theology has no answer to Dawkins, other than to say, “I don’t care what you say, I still believe.”
MSH: I was agreeing with you about Dawkins to this
point. No answer to Dawkins and his ilk? Hardly. Ever heard of Alister
McGrath? He has doctorates in theology and biochemistry. He wrote a
book called The Dawkins Delusion. How about Timothy Keller? He’s a pastor-philosopher, and his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
was very high (it may have hit number 1) on the NY Times bestseller
list. I could literally give you a grocery list here, but I won’t. If
you think there’s no response to Dawkins other than a “sign,” you’re
very under-read in this area.
And of course to tell Dawkins he should believe the Bible is
infallible would be to joke with him, and he would joke back: prove it!
So I believe our generation needs God’s help. We need a sign, a sign
that may not make Dawkins believe, but will make him less certain. For
I believe in God by faith, but it is a faith not just in the Bible, but
a faith that God is alive and well, and knows the mess the church, and
our atheistic culture, is now in. God needs to do something to restore
the plausibility (not the provability) of Christian eschatology. I
believe UFOs in the midst of our space age culture have done that
redemptive work, making our eschatology plausible again, but the church
is blind to God’s sign, God’s gift to us.
MSH: I can see you’re angling for needing a (UFO) sign to prompt belief — but you wrote what you wrote years ago - ?
MY EXODUS HERMENEUTICS
If I am to be charged with hermeneutical rape, it likely has to do
with my interpretation of Exodus that my critics have in mind. Notice
where we are now not only in liberal biblical studies, but also in all
our secular university “religious studies” programs, in understanding
Exodus. Walter Brueggemann is one of liberal Protestantism’s most
respected Old Testament scholars. He is Professor Emeritus at Columbia
Theological Seminary in Georgia, author of many books, including An
Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination
(2003). I have attended some of his lectures, and respect him very much.
MSH: And he’d laugh at your eisegesis in Exodus where
you have UFOs and aliens. I’m familiar with Brueggemann, and he
wouldn’t buy any of this.
But what is his basic assumption about the “historicity” of the book
of Exodus? Basically, he agrees with archaeologist William Dever, that
Exodus never happened. He quotes Dever who says, “The whole
‘Exodus-Conquest’ cycle of stories must now be set aside as largely
mythical, but in the proper sense of the term ‘myth’; perhaps
‘historical fiction,’ but tales told primarily to validate religious
beliefs.” (Quoted in Brueggemann, p. 54; in Dever’s book What Did the
Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It? P. 121)
MSH: Another logic lesson for everyone. So, who is
Dever? Does everyone in the field of archaeology and biblical studies
agree with him? Are there no problems with his reconstructions? What
are his presuppositions? If most do (and that would be fair to say
about those scholars who share his presuppositions — and that is the
majority, but far from the vast majority), then are we to conclude that
truth is determined by consensus? Has the consensus ever been wrong?
For many modern scholars, including seminary professors, Moses is
now a literary figure in a religious play, somewhat like Hamlet in a
Shakespeare play. Thus modern scholars come at the Bible with a
literary interest, and religious interest in the sense that the book of
Exodus illustrates how a unique ethnic group developed their sense of
their god, and their destiny. (Mythology in the good sense, whatever
The modern church has no chance of making its way through the
wilderness on Brueggemann’s manna from the sky, no matter that he is
one of the best manna bakers we have.
MSH: Boy, you have very little faith in the God whom you
claim to follow. And you are quite under-exposed to the responses to
scholars like Dever on the other side, just as credentialed, just as
This is stone, not bread. (Mt. 7:9)
Obviously right at the center of this mythology is the central power of
God, the angel of God who led the Exodus in the “pillar of cloud by day
and the pillar of fire by night” (Ex. 13:21,22)
This strange Exodus UFO is said to hover in the sky during the 40 years
of the Exodus. I have suggested that the pillar of cloud and fire is
not only shaped like many modern UFOs are reported to look, but if UFOs
carry the angels of God, then we may be looking at the reality that
created the biblical religion. That means, what we now call UFOs were
the power of the Exodus, and it is my faith that they are a power
working under the direction of the God of the Universe.
MSH: This is hermeneutical poppycock. Ancient Hebrew
writers knew what a cloud was. They also had words for “silver(y)”;
“metallic”; “round”; “oval”; “flying”; etc. — the vocabulary they would
use if they saw some craft other than a cloud. This makes the
Israelites sound like idiots. Give them some credit.
Of course, it is for this belief that I am charged with
hermeneutical rape, downright blasphemy, or being a wolf in sheep’s
clothing. (For my response to the wolf charge, see my article at Strong
Delusion: “Barry Downing’s Response to Gary Bates.” )
I am not going to repeat here what I have treated at length
elsewhere. (See Chapter 3 in my book, The Bible and Flying Saucers ,
which deals almost exclusively with Exodus; also see “Did a UFO Part
the Red Sea?” UFO Magazine , Vol. 5, No. 2, 1990. Also see my Strong
Delusion article: “UFOs: What Does Christ Require of Us?” ; “Exodus as
a Paradigm of UFO Strategy,” MUFON UFO Journal , October 1994;
“Radiation Symptoms in Exodus,” Flying Saucer Review, May-June 1972;
“Some Questions Concerning Dr. Menzel’s Biblical Exegesis,” 1973 MUFON
Conference Proceedings, Kansas City, Missouri.)
I suggest that the pillar of cloud, the Exodus UFO met Moses at the burning bush,
MSH: Uh, check the text, Barry — there is no reference
to a pillar of cloud at the burning bush (Exodus 3 for all you who want
to read it). THIS is precisely why your hermeneutic and eisegesis
cannot be trusted. You simply insert details into the text that favor
what you’re saying, assuming people won’t look (and yuo’ve been right
there to a large extent). Ridiculous.
orchestrated the plagues in Egypt, including Passover,
MSH: Guess what? No pillar of cloud ever mentioned with the plagues or Passover either! Who’da thunk that?!
led the Jews up to the Red Sea, parted the Red Sea, fed the Jews
manna on their wilderness journey, gave them the law at Sinai, and left
them in the promised land to work out their, and our, salvation.
MSH: Ditto my notes above. We only see the pillar of
cloud clocking the Egyptians before the crossing and during the journey
to Canaan. It’s easy Barry — get some Bible software or something! Look
Let me quote just one and a half verses regarding the parting of the
Red Sea to explain the hermeneutical issue: “And in the morning watch
the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down upon the host
of the Egyptians, discomfiting the host of the Egyptians, [breaking]
their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily.” (Ex 14:24, 25a)
At this point in the text, the Jews have crossed on dry ground to
the other side. But the Egyptians are in hot pursuit, in their
chariots, in the open sea channel. What happens next? Most of us, with
our Sunday School memory, would say Moses raised his hands, and the
walls of water collapsed on the Egyptians. This did happen, but later.
The Egyptians were tooling along in their chariots just fine,
perhaps it looked to the Jews, safe on the other side, that they were
not safe after all. The miracle that seemed to save them may have been
a hoax. The Jews watched with anxiety when suddenly things changed.
Notice that the Exodus UFO is hovering directly over the open channel.
(Imagine a long fluorescent light tube, hovering parallel to the sea,
and just above it.)
MSH: Yeah. We have to imagine it, since it’s nowhere in the text.
The Lord, in the pillar of cloud and fire, “looked down.” What does this mean?
MSH: A wild guess: he looked down out of the cloud.
The Egyptians were knocked flat, the horses struggled under a heavy
burden, the chariot wheels broke—from the Lord’s ‘look down.” Some
invisible force that came from above, from the Exodus UFO, broke the
chariot wheels and paralyzed the horses. Hmmmm.
MSH: Hmmmm, indeed. These details are not in the text. I
challenge you, Barry, to give us all the text - -chapter and verses–
where Egyptians were knocked flat off their horses by “an invisible
force” (it was by the water, and water isn’t invisible), chariot wheels
broken, horses paralyzed. Give it to us. Again, you are deliberately
duping readers here. NONE of this is in the exodus account of the
account of the crossing. ZERO. This is inexcusable on your part.
Now let me illustrate the difference between what I do and what you do. Readers can click here
to view an exciting 6:21 video of me searching the Bible for any of
this claptrap. You don’t have to take my word — I’ll show you. In the
video I search for “pillar of cloud”; “pillar” AND “cloud” in the same
verse; “chariot”; and “horses”. There’s no audio — I do the search,
then scroll through the results slowly, so people can read the results
and find your material absent. The exodus from Egypt is really only
described in the book of Exodus, but there are other references to it
scattered in Joshua and in some Psalms (so look closely there), but
I’ll scroll through everything for the overkill. I then search for “Red
Sea” and do the same, just to make sure I hit all the Red Sea passages
so I don’t overlook anything. I don’t need to make up material and
insert my own ideas.
This is a strange note of “mythology” to have been saved all these
years. The “story” does not need this part. Just let the walls of water
collapse, and let the Egyptians drown. Why bother with chariot wheels
breaking? By the way, the reason “breaking” is in brackets is because
in the RSV translation, the editors used the word “clogging” in
reference to the chariot wheels, but noted that the actual Hebrew says
the wheels were broken by the force from the pillar of cloud. The
editors could not make sense of breaking wheels, and invented mud to
clog the wheels, which would not be found on dry ground, of course. (Ex. 14:22; 29)
MSH: As the video showed, there are ZERO verses in the
Bible that have the pillar *doing* anything to the horses or chariots.
It’s a Barry Downing fabrication. And think about what it would mean,
Barry. Early in your response you expressed your faith, pretty clearly
I might add. But your reading of this passage now has the God of Israel
in a space craft, meaning that he needs technology to travel. What
happened to omnipresence? Omnipotence? The idea that Jesus expressed
with complete clarity, that God “is a spirit” (John 4:24).
you’ve just made God subject to the laws of nature, which means he’s a
created being, which means he isn’t God by ANY biblical definition. In
short, you don’t have much of a theology. Maybe “exo-theology” is
better. But you don’t need that; you just have to quit inserting
details into the text. And as an aside, the word in Exodus 14:25
for “clogging” isn’t a mystery. I want to see proof of what you say -
show me the RSV note (give me an edition, a copyright year, something)
that says the wheels were somehow affected by the cloud. I don’t
believe it exists. Show us. My reason is that the Hebrew word behind
the RSV English is a very common verb (swr -”to turn aside”; note that
the LXX may have something different — it’s where the “clogging”
translation actually comes from). Doesn’t seem too complicated to me.
Exodus 14 has the Egyptian chariots going into the midst of the sea.
“Dry land” simply means something that can be walked on - it’s not
under water. It doesn’t mean there’s no water in it like it’s a desert.
Humans can walk on ground that heavier object (like horses and
chariots) cannot. Anyone who’s had a bike or car stuck knows that the
wheels “turn aside” in ways you don’t want them, making for inoperative
conditions. Pretty simple, A common word, and one very apt here.
I have wondered if the propulsion system of a modern UFO might have the power to part the Red Sea, or any body of water.
MSH: Here’s an even better question about the propulsion
system, Barry. Since you associate fire (pillar of fire; cloud = smoke)
with the UFO’s propulsion system, how is it that a combustion engine is
capable of space travel? Huh? Can you introduce us to an astrophysicist
who would affirm that combustion engines are capable of deep space
travel? Give us a break.
I have noticed that some modern UFOs are huge, up to a mile long.
They are sometimes called “cloud cigars,” in other words, cloud-like
cylindrical columns. Modern UFOs sometimes burn the ground where they
land. Could this power dry the sea bed? And most of all, could modern
UFOs in fact be a sign that the angels of God are still with us? This
is what I have wondered. Is this eisegesis, am I just “reading UFOs”
into the Exodus text, with no justification? Is this hermeneutical rape
MSH: Well, it looks to me like you’re “doing violence” to the plain content of the text.
, or more accurately, hermeneutical adultery, or are my critics
blind to the presence of the angels of God in our skies, as religious
leaders were blind to the healing of the blind man in John chapter 9?
Are our modern scribes ignoring what is “new” in our treasure chest?
MSH: No, this critic isn’t blind to what you see in the
text. Someone who can’t see what isn’t there isn’t blind. In fact, it’s
the opposite: he sees the vacuousness of what you’re saying quite