Have you seen the face of god? #atheism #atheist twitter.com/poochalot/stat…
— Jossi (@poochalot) November 10, 2012
I got a good laugh out of it, and for completeness I have looked up the verses. According to Genesis 32:30, Jacob has seen God face to face, while according to John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 no one has ever seen the face of God. Look like a pretty obvious contradiction to me.
Of course a Christian saw this picture and complained that the verses are being taken out of context. I asked him what he thought the context was, and he replied that no one has seen the true face of God, but some have seen a form that he uses to communicate with people. I'm not particularly satisfied with this answer, but to properly decide if it is acceptable I'd probably at least want to go check out the lexicon and see if the same word is being used for 'seen' in the different verses. But that's not really my point today, my focus here is that when a complaint was made that something was taken out of context, the question of the correct context was asked and answered. In response to the complaint of things being taken out of context, the following tweet was made.
@scotsmanmatt "Context" is the last line of defense for theists along with the "translation" argument. Utter bs. @hausdorff80 @poochalotWhich I think is completely correct. I know that when I was still a Christian, I used context as a "get out of jail free" card. I don't think I really knew that I was doing that at the time, but if I didn't know how to explain something, I would simply say that things have been taken out of context and hope the conversation ended there, usually it did. The thing is, if this did end the conversation, I would be able to get away with not thinking too hard about it. Even though part of my brain was recognizing that something was wrong, another part would just assume that everything is fine and I would just let it go, we have a sort of superposition where I don't have to take any particular stance and can get away with stuff. However, if I was made to really defend a position and had to actually explain the context involved, the waveform would collapse and I would have to take a stand somewhere. Do this enough times and contradictions have a chance to build up. This kind of thing really did play a part in my discovery that religion has serious problems. This is the main reason I think it is so important to dig deeper when people say things have been taken out of context. Don't let them get away with that until they provide the different contexts.
— Steve (@Bye_Dogma) November 10, 2012
The other reason I think it is important to ask what the contexts are, is that they may be right. What if the 2 verses really are being taken out of context and they really aren't a contradiction? Wouldn't you prefer to find that out and stop using a poor example of a contradiction from this point forward? I certainly don't want to use substandard arguments. It reminds me of the unicorns in the bible. Yes, there are unicorns in the bible, no it isn't what immediately comes to mind. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation (they are talking about a 1 horned rhinoceros) and it doesn't serve us well to keep pushing forward poor arguments, especially when there are so many good ones out there.