How Can We Have Faith; How Do We Debate Ideas?

(This is part three of a, likely, 10-part reaction to The Alpha Course. For an explanation of the course and a reaction to “Who Was Jesus,” see part one: Explore the Meaning of… Bitten Tongues. Night two was “Why’d Jesus Die?“)

Before I get into this night’s topic, “How Can We Have Faith,” I wanted to break away for a moment for…

An Interlude: Ideas, Identity, and Debate

I write these posts like I write all my blog posts — very stream-of-conscious. I write as fast as I think it, and I pretty much never edit. What that often means is that my musings tend to get tinged with a goodly amount of emotion and a lack of refinement. And reading through my posts, that often results in a certain negativity, snarkiness, perhaps an insulting attitude. And recognizing that in the writing, I want to state in no uncertain terms: I attack the idea, not the person who holds the idea.

Before the evening began, after we ate, a high school girl asked if she could ask all of us to consider judging at an upcoming speech and debate tournament. I jumped at the chance; it’s been years since I judges debate. When I was in high school, debate (and drama) was my life. I wasn’t great by any means, but I loved it, and it was really the only thing (aside from role-playing games and reading sci-fi/fantasy) that I had any interest in. And, appropriately for this Alpha Course reaction, and my reaction to my reaction, I recall some very important life lessons I gained from four years of debate.

See, in academic debating, you’re given a topic. In Lincoln-Douglas debate, one-on-one debate, (if memory serves) you got three topics over the course of the year, and it would be a “value” position. For example: “It is better to live on one’s knees than to die on one’s feet.” And in cross-ex (policy debate), team-on-team debate, you had one question for the year and it would be more…policy-related topic. For example: “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey.” I did both kinds of debate. Over four years, I addressed about 16 different topics that I had to explore, examine, construct positions on, find evidence, dissect, and defend. Both sides of the topic, pro and con!

If you want to do well in intermural debate, you have to do well in constructing and defending completely opposing approaches to a question. You have to construct it, examine it, find all the holes in it. Find the weaknesses, anticipate where others can tear it down. Streangthen them, counter them. And then, do it again for the other side and made sure it’s just as strong and deffinsible of an argument.

Naturally, you may find you personally agree with the pro or con side of the question, and be tempted to spend all your effort defending that position. But you couldn’t, I couldn’t. I wanted to win.

So what did this teach me, this duality, this internal dialectic? A couple of things, neither of which would I really realize until years later:

It made me understand there are multiple ways of viewing the same question, and multiple, valid, approaches. Each with their own set of evidence.

And two: don’t take it personally!

When you’re forced to have to embody the position on a question to the point of trying to prove it, beyond a doubt, to a judge, you learn to put aside your personal feelings. You don’t take the attack of the opposing side as a personal attack against you, even if you happen to be defending the position you may personally feel more connection to — not if you want to win. And you never, ever, attack the person of your opponent — you attack their claims, their logic, the evidence. The person is not the target, the argument is.

And now, years later, since becoming a critical thinker, a skeptic, an atheist, politically and socially aware, I find myself in debates and discussions more often than I ever thought I would “in the real world.” And that lesson from high school is still deeply ingrained: attack the argument or the claim, not the person. Even when I allow myself to be emotional, to have “an attitude,” in my mind and in my intent, I’m attacking a position or a claim. If I sound insulting, it’s because I find the claim to be worthy of ire, not the person. Because I don’t believe that a person is the claim.

But I bet you see a problem with that, don’t you? I recognize it. We all do take our claims –our beliefs, very personally. When someone says, “That thing you say you believe is silly, and here’s exactly why in five points and seven sub-points,” that’s insulting. You feel they’re attacking you personally, right? Because, after all, what are you except for the things you believe?

To be fair, I feel that way too. If someone came to me, and said, “Secular humanism is ridiculous and immoral,” I’d feel personally attacked even though they never said the word “You”. So, I understand when people get upset when Christianity is called ridiculous, superstitious, even barbaric. After all, if you say that about “Christianity,” what does that say about “Christians“?!

And that’s where we, all of us, have to toughen our skin. Because we aren’t our beliefs. Yes, we do act upon our beliefs, we do things based on what we think is true. As well we should! But all ideas, all propositions, all beliefs, are, must, be subject to scrutiny and debate and examination. Because some beliefs, some ideas, are wrong. Many are wrong. And when actions are performed inspired by wrong beliefs, Bad Things happen. When people act upon mistaken ideas, Bad Things happen. Children don’t get vaccinated. Proven medicine gets rejected in favor of magical thinking. Life savings are given to charlatans. AIDS and over-population and suffering ravages areas where condoms and birth control are dismissed as “sinful.” Dangerous herbs are taken. Preventable environmental disasters are ignored. Planes get flown into buildings.

Ideas must be challenged, no matter who puts them forward, no matter who says they’re true. Nothing should be taken on faith alone. And when an idea, a claim, doesn’t hold water, it must be jettisoned; and when a claim is demonstrably proven, it must be accepted regardless of one’s biases or politics or ideas of faith.

This is my code, the way I live my life. It’s the way I live with integrity and truth. My goal is to believe as many true things as possible and reject as many untrue things as I can.

And if one wants to do that, to live with integrity, you have to not be afraid to be proven wrong!

Defend your beliefs, defend your ideas, give them good battles and challenge them vigorously! But you have to be willing to recognize when your arguments are shown to be faulty, your logic flawed, your evidence wanting — to do otherwise is to live lies, and worse, to willingly accept lies over truth. I can think of no worse way to live!

I do take attacks on what I believe personally, despite my admonition to not do so. It’s human. But I believe I’ve lived my life with integrity, willing, eager, to be proven wrong. Over the years I’ve changed my socio-political affiliations, a few very significant ways. I’ve changed my core religious beliefs. I’ve changed what I’ve thought about humanity in general. I’ve changed what I believed about science and about “the unseen world.” And about what I thought of spinach. Because I’ve tried defending my beliefs on these topics with great passion and veracity — and when they failed to stand up to scrutiny, I changed what I believed to fit reality — I did not try to conform reality to my beliefs.

And that’s why I say I attack ideas, not the people. Because I know, from personal experience, that ideas are simply things a person accepts, or not accepts. It’s not who they are. People change, ideas change, beliefs (should) change. Ideas are good or bad, people just are.

(There are exceptions, like, as I said, people who actively choose to ignore reality at all costs in order to not just hold onto their pet beliefs regardless of how flawed they are, but who actively seek to convince other people of the beliefs as well. And, of course, worse yet are people who don’t really believe but take advantage of those who do. Televangelists and “psychics” fall in that category. Apologists like William Lane Craig, Dinesh D’Souza, Ray Comfort, and maybe this Nicky Gumbel, fall in the former category. They, I may attack personally.)

But the rank and file, and normal person who wants to believe in what’s true, very likely all the people in this Alpha Course small group, are people who try to live sincerely and with integrity, and I mean them no insult. I do not direct my attack at claims, logic, reasoning failures, at them personally. Because they’re human, and all humans are victims of cognitive biases and logical fallacies. Heck, falling prey to those roadblocks to accepting reality-based-beliefs, is our default wiring! It actually is what makes us human. It’s not not their fault, it wasn’t my fault when I was in the same boat. It just is.

But ideas, claims, evidence, don’t get such a pass. they get the crucible. And I hold nothing back when I attack a claim or bad logic. Ideally, what survives, is worthy of being believed. And that brings you a step closer to truth and a step away from doing yourself or others harm because of wrong beliefs.

Speaking of….

A Relationship With Jesus

Nicky divides this section into: The Word of God, The Work of Jesus, and The Witness of the Spirit. The “trinity!” A concept, by the way, not actually found in the Bible, but was devised as a rationalization 400 years later as the religion’s leaders were having their councils in order to codify the splintered and fragmented patchwork of guerrilla religion, with all their collected conflicting and contradicting gospels and epistles, into a “coherent” and dogmatic religion that would be accepted by the Roman state as an “official” religion with a unified face. Just saying.

Anyway, I’ve already spent too much time babbling tonight, and, to be honest, this night of Nicky’s rogue’s gallery of logical fallacies was pretty all-over-the-place — I’m not going to be too regemented in how I address it. I’m going to take his general comments, some specific quotes, and just give over-all reactions.

Nicky started the segment stating, “You know when you’re in a relationship.” And you know what? You do. (Unless, of course, you’re a stalker who thinks you’re in a relationship and you interpret all kinds of disparate and unrelated signs and signals as indicators of Zooey Deschanel’s love for you… sorry, I got sidetracked.) Nicky would return to this idea throughout the segment, completely unaware of the irony of what he was saying. As an example of how he knows he’s in a relationship with Jesus, he used his marriage as an example. How does he know he’s married? (Married to the woman that he indicated in the audience and the camera focused on for a moment?) He could point to his wedding day. How does he know he’s in a relationship with Jesus? He can point to…the ressurrection.

Let that sink in for a moment. You caught the errors, right?

Relationship A: He can point to the person he’s in the relationship with. Other people can see that person. That person can smile and nod and agree with the claim that he’s in the relationship with her. And he happened to actually be there to witness the event that symbolizes his particular relationship.

Relationship B: There’s no other person that he can see, address, call up and say “Hey, did you happen to set the VCR for ‘The Big Bang Theory’?” No one can see this person, or ask them questions about the relationship. This person can’t smile and nod. He wasn’t there, 2,000 years ago, when an alleged resurrection took place. There’s no photo album of the event, no cake getting stale in the freezer.

I see some problems with this unequivocal analogy. See, this “relationship” with Jesus, is suspiciously more similar with an invisible friend one has tea parties with than a marriage to a living, breathing person who has to pay for a seat on a plane. You can know you’re in a relationship with someone who you can have a conversation with. And I don’t mean the kind of “conversation” where one person does all the talking and then, if they want to hear back from the other person, has to wait for signs and signals that they have to interpret as feedback from the other person.

If I want to interact with my wife, whom I have a relationship with, I can turn to her and say, “Hey, I love you,” and she can turn to me and reply, “Clean the litter box.” On the other hand, a relationship with an invisible being consists of, “Hey, I love you,” and as a reply you have to say, to yourself, something like, “Ah, I feel a feeling of love back…in my heart,” or, “I had a good day today — God loves me,” or, “birds are singing and I hit all green lights, that must be a sign God loves me.” Do you see my point? When you’re in a relationship, with a real person, you don’t have to have one-sided conversations and interpret your own feelings and external signs as feedback, you can just talk to the other person. And unless you’re a stalker (Zooey, loves me, I know she does), or are in a relationship with a really passive-aggressive jerk, they’ll use a similar means of communication to reply in clear, unambiguous, and perceptible by other people means.

Otherwise, the invisible and the non-existent look suspiciously alike.

How else do we know we have a relationship with Jesus? “The promises of this book [the Bible], which are based on facts, not emotions. Emotions change, facts do not.” Yeesh, where to begin. Which facts are unchangeable? The fact that the women found the tomb already open when they got there, or the fact they had to have soldiers roll the stone back? The fact that four gospels recount four different things found at the tomb? The fact that…well, I could go on for hours. The Bible is filled, cover-to-cover, with facts that change within its own covers, not to mention change with reality. According to the Bible, the earth is in the center and he sun moves. Guess that fact changed. The moon produces its own light, mustard seeds are the smallest seed. Those facts must have changed. Terah lived for X number of years, but then actually lived for Y number of years. Slavery is perfectly OK, and you must kill a willful child, the victim of rape in town, and sell your daughter to her rapist if she’s not engaged. These facts are as immutable today as they were 4,000 years ago.

You get my point.

So, Nicky mentions, that Jesus will not force his way into your heart, you have to invite him in. And once you do, he’s there to stay to give you eternal life. I have to wonder, what about former Christians? What happens there? What happened to the eternity thing? The Spirit “taking up residence”?

I know a lot of apologists respond to this by saying, “They weren’t Real Christians ™ to begin with.” Can you think of anything more insulting, demeaning to say? Oh, what you thought you were, what you believed, with all your heart and mind, with devotion and sincerity and earnestness — you were just lying or fooling yourself. You didn’t really have Jesus in your heart.

Yeah, I know, we skeptical non-theists are doing the same thing, telling people you’re fooling yourself. I guess it’s really no better. But I guess while we’re insulting everyone, the problem with one set of Christians calling another set of (former) believers as not real, has a deeper level of insult. We’re saying all believers are fooling themselves; they’re a group of self-fooled people calling another group of formerly self-fooled people insincere and fake, even though the former group is no different from the later. I guess I bristle at pots calling kettles not-black despite the fact they’re both not black.

I really shouldn’t have to respond to this; the callous absurdity really should stand on its own. But I want to say, I know I sure believed I was a Christian once. I know I believed it with everything I was. If I believed it, if I lived it, if I was sincere and earnest, is that not enough to be a Christian? To have had Jesus take up residence in my heart? As well as the millions of people who were just as sincere in their belief? The many, many pastors and preachers even, who so believed it that they gave up their life to this belief that Jesus dwelled inside them, only to find out (often in anguish and despair) that it was a self-delusion. When most of these millions of people, who when doubts and questions and uncertainty began to creep in, would pray and beg and ask for certainty, and answers to doubts. Why would, in such sincere asking and invitation, if as advertised Jesus and The Spirit took up residence, would people deconvert despite the fact that they really, really didn’t want to?

The only options I see are:

A. They weren’t Real Christians ™ and despite what they thought, weren’t really sincere in their desire — which if that was they case, if so many people could think they had a relationship with Jesus but really didn’t, what does that say about anyone who claims to have a relationship with Jesus??

B. Jesus doesn’t actually offer anything eternally, doesn’t answer prayers for strength and faith and answers to doubts, and breaks promises — which if that’s the case, what does that say about this Jesus fellow and this Bible’s “facts”?

C. There isn’t a Jesus, God, or Spirit as described by this book, and everyone who says they have a relationship with their invisible friend is fooling themselves just as much as the many who used to fool themselves until they stopped.

I know which one I think is true. If it’s one of the other two options, that’s not really an all-wise, all-loving deity I’d feel was worthy of devotion and worship anyway.

“The gift [of the relationship/eternal life] is free — but it cost Jesus everything.” OK, I hate to take what feels like a low blow, but, no, not really. It didn’t cost Jesus anything more than a few pints of blood and 36 hours or so. Think about it: If the crucufuxion and resurrection were true, and really happened as the Bible says, here is what must also be true:

  • Jesus is God incarnate. At the very least, he’s of divine origin and nature.
  • He knew exactly what was planned for him as shown by his “take this cup from me” prayer to…himself(?) (Not to mention all his prophesies.)
  • He knew he was going to be resurrected and return to the right hand of God.
  • He was resurrected in body, stayed around on Earth for a time making visits and talking to disciples.
  • He did arise, as he knew he would be, back to Heaven.

This all means Jesus didn’t sacrifice a gosh-darn thing. He got his life and body back after a day or so. What was sacrificed? Really? He got to continue his preaching for a bit, start his religion, and pop on up to dad/self in perfect heaven. Seriously, what got sacrificed? What price was paid? What was given up?

For there to be a cost, a price, a sacrifice, something important has to be given up, for good, with no anticipation or belief in getting it back. This did not happen in regards to Jesus. He didn’t give anything up for more than a day and a half, and he knew he was going to get it back, he did, and he got more in return, which he knew was going to happen — and even planned for it.

Not only does the concept of “original sin,” the fall of Adam/man, make no sense and embodies a barbaric and psychopathic concept of blame and cruelty, but the atonement theory is entirely devoid of meaning and substance. The very foundation of Christianity, its raison d’etre, is empty and false and pointless. There is absolutely no purpose, need, basis for the very foundation for Christianity at its core. Christianity is a phantasm on top of a fantasy, surrounded by a house of cards.

Finally, from Nicky, we have this gem: “Everybody exercises faith all the time. Sitting in those chairs, you have faith they’ll hold you.” Name that fallacy: false equivocation equivalence. The kind of faith one has in the stability of a chair is not remotely close to the kind of faith needed to believe in an invisible disembodied intelligence that has a personal relationship with humans he blames for their failings despite him being their all-knowing/all-powerful creator. Wee bit different.

I have sat in chairs. I have sat in many, many chairs. The number of times a chair failed to hold me, I think I can count as two, maybe three. I can touch the chair. I can look at it and see how sturdy it is. I can ease myself into it and test its strength. I have observed a great many people sit without failure in a great many chairs. The expectation I have in the ability of any given chair to hold me, while I can not be absolutely 100% certain of its doing so, is so high as to constitute a reasonable and rational belief that the chair will hold.

This is the same for other things I can’t know for 100% sure: the sun will rise tomorrow, I will awaken from sleep tomorrow, the next plane I fly in will take off and land safely, gravity will cause this computer will fall to the floor if I push087)*&7 off&087mylap…. Sorry.

Different levels of evidence and experience cause different levels of “faith” so that “faith” exists on a continuum between Utterly Unreasonable and Without Merit, to Maybe/Maybe-Not, to Near Absolute Certainty. One cannot make any claim they want, with terrible evidence, sketchy experience, bad logic, and claim faith in that proposition is as equally reasonable as faith in the stability of chairs in general.

Small Group Discussion

Ah, small group! A refuge from the inanity of Nicky Gumbel. (How’s that for irony?) OK, seriously, small group discussion time is a lot less stressful… while still being stressful. A lot of thoughtless things are said, irrational claims made — but the group of people there are sincere, nice, friendly people who are just looking for stability in their lives, meaning, contentment amongst a world of suffering and fear. I can’t really blame any of them for their contradictory and/or fallacious statements, they’re no different than me or you or any other human as we’re all wired to be credulous, irrational, believers. Skepticism is a learned ability, critical thinking is a learned skill — if you don’t learn it, you’re not born with it, you don’t have it. It’s just the way we evolved.

Two early humans in the savanna. They see the grass move out in front of them. Early human Abbu-Abbu says, “The grass moved! It must have have been from an intentional agent with a mind. I bet it’s a lion, or a hyena! I’m going the other way!” And the other early human Bamu-Bamu says, “Hmm, I’m skeptical about that grass moving. It could be any number of causes, most likely the wind or even just an optical illusion. Until I have more evidence of what caused it, I’m continuing on.” Which early human likely lived long enough to breed more offspring?

Back in the first few hundred thousand years of human existence, it was just fine to be credulous and believed what the authority figures of the tribe told you. The leaders, the shaman. Not just “just fine,” but your life depended on doing what they said and believing what you were told and no harm came from seeing agency in natural events. But like it or not, (and a great many conservatives hate it), we live in a science-based world of airplanes and atomic energy and mass communication and hydrocarbon fuel burning, and we no longer live in little tribes and villages of like-minded people where we can simply avoid coming in contact with people who don’t believe in the same tribal gods as you. We live in an interconnected world where belief matters, because your actions matter on a scale far larger than just you and your family. We, as a society, as a species, can no longer afford to be credulous and un-critical.

…but I’m back to babbling. What I mean to say, is I have nothing against the small group people. If anything, and I know this sounds condescending and patronizing, but I feel kind of sorry for them. But I have hope. I learned critical thinking and skepticism late in life. There are many, many, I know of who learn it even later. I have hope.

But there, in that group, is not the place for me to try to edumacate anyone. So, dear reader, you get to enjoy the brunt of my venting hot, molten critical think-goo!

So one person in group exclaimed that platitude I’ve long come to despise: “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” Before I could roll my eyes, one questioning (but wanting a priori to be Christian) person replied, “Why do some people commit suicide, then?” I was so proud. 🙂 To which the original speaker said, “That’s not God.” Yyeeaahh. There’s the old double-standard. If it’s good, it’s God’s doing. If it’s bad, God had nothing to do with it. If a tornado killed eight but spared a person who survived in the rubble, God is responsible for the miracle survivor, but God’s neither blamed for the tornado nor for not saving the other not-so-miracle-worthy victims.

I’ve expounded on this before, and no doubt I will repeatedly, you can not have an all-knowing, all-powerful uberdeity, and at the same time absolve that deity of responsibility for all the suffering that happens on equal terms with the credit for all the good-despite-the-summering you want to attribute to him.

Many agreed that having faith, believing and accepting Jesus, makes you a better person. It made them better people. Some continued to explain that after deciding to be better Christians, they wanted to be better people. Hmm, you don’t think that their being a better person happened at all because they wanted to be a better person, do you? I mean, it’s not like they actually said they made decisions and wanted to change or anything.

Oh wait, they did!

See, funny thing. A great many of the 6.5 billion people on the planet are good people, happy people, doing good things and making ethical decisions. Which is funny when you remember that 5 billion of that 6.5 are not Christian. And, if there were something special, powerful, spiritual, mystical, certain about becoming Christian that makes you be a better person, naturally, one should be surprised to hear that: the majority of people in American prisons are Christian, there’s higher divorce among Christians and even more among fundamentalist Christians, “Christian nations” like the U.S. have as much or more crime and social deterioration as non-“Christian nations.”

Conclusion: Being Christian has no effect over whether you’re a good, or better, person. Making the decision for yourself to be such, is what makes the difference.

Hmm, the homophobe was back again this week. She’s the one person I have actual negative feelings about, for the person herself and not just the things she says. She said this time, “God is the potter, we’re the clay; we don’t have a right to question if we’re smashed by the potter.” Wow. How authoritarianly amoral is that. That’s one of William Lane Craig’s favorite canards: what is right is right for no other reason than because the guy who could kill you says it’s right. I’m actually not being facetious, this is what he believes (and evidently many ordinary Christians as well). Translation: Might makes right.

Odd that the same people who think this way have this silly thing against the likes of Stalin and Mao and Kim Jong Il. I mean, this is dictator apologetics. If the guy who has the power to kill you, ruin your life, lets you live only because he hasn’t decided to kill you yet, is to be worshiped and followed because he has that power, where’s the morality in that? The love, relationship, devotion? It amazes me that people can say one moment, “God wants a relationship with you and loves you,” and the next minute say, “and he has all the right and power to smash you and kill you and you can’t question it.” What kind of relationship is that?!

Oh yeah, that abusive husband and battered-wife-syndrome relationship I spoke of last time.

I saw Kirk Cameron’s “Fireproof” a couple of years ago (*shudder*), and there was a scene where the dad was trying to get through to his non-believing son. And he tells him “God’s love and forgiveness is endless!”, and literally two minutes later he tells him that God won’t forgive forever, when you die his wrath will be his to have. I can’t grasp the cognitive dissonance this belief demands.

Anyway, after the potter/clay Might Makes Right dictator’s love lady said what she did, a few people is class made disagreement and objection noises, and I was gladdened by that. Although, it was a disappointingly mellow disagreement. I think people are working out the problem with having an all-powerful uberdeity and at the same time one that’s not responsible for smashed clay.

One of the final issues of small group actually addressed the idea of an all-knowing God. Someone mentioned something that raised the question whether or not God saw it coming. Someone brought up the notion that “God learned” to do things differently. (An idea The Wife really latched onto; hate talking for her, but I believe she’s really big on the idea that God has learned and evolved over time, from Testament to Testament.) But the problem with that, is that that precludes any chance of God being omniscient. If God is all-knowing, he can’t “learn” because he already knows all. And a non-omniscient god is not really a god that I think we should be looking to for wisdom or morality.

I mean, if this is a god that despite creating the universe, didn’t know enough to put in the Bible, his revealed book of wisdom and rules to live by, “Hey, slavery, seems cool right now, but I’m kinda thinking that’s not a good idea. Oh, and don’t kill your kids, whether because they’re disobedient or because they were raped, doesn’t matter. I see that as being a no-no in the future. Pfft! Screw the future, that’s just plain wrong, you know. Oh, and uhm, seems like killing animals is all fun and stuff, but I see myself one day coming down to have a really bad weekend in order to let you all, stop… killing animals, I guess — but why wait 2,000 years, I’ll just do it now! Find me a virgin…. Wait! I’ll just decree by fiat, no dying (however temporary) needed, that all are forgiven because I say so– Wait. No, gimmie the virgin. Sorry, maiden. No, virgin….” …if he didn’t know enough to put the proper stuff in the Bible to begin with, or DO the proper stuff to begin with (e.g.: to avoid genocidal flood, or even sin-prone humans), why is he even worthy of worship and be trusted with the whole eternal-punishment-for-finite-life-of-non-Christianity-being post-mortem judgement thing? Or any decision people who believe in him say he wants?

Of course, that explains why in many places in the Bible, especially throughout the Pentateuch, God seems to be very un-knowing and ignorant of a great many events and facts. From anticipating his completely innocent humans would eat from the Tree he negligently put among them, (like a parent who would put a box of knives and glass shards in a room of toddlers), and that humanity would grow “wicked” and need a good mass-murder via a world-wide flood because somehow that’ll learn ’em, to needing to tell the Israelites to bury their poo so that when Yahweh walks among the camp he won’t be surprised by it, to not knowing the Canaanites would have iron chariots and thus be unable to stop them for the Israelites….

…but then, the Bible also has a great many passages that says God knows all, he knows the heart of every man, he knows the end of time as he knows the beginning, he knows all events before they occur, and he empowers those he chooses with prophesy so they can impart bits of what God already knows will come to pass. So, you know, we’re left with contradiction — imagine that.