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Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Most Important Christian Besides Jesus And Paul

That would be Marcion.

Much of what we know about Marcion’s origins are shrouded in mystery. And the bulk of what we know about Marcion comes from his “orthodox” — sometimes extremely hateful — opponents, such as Polycarp (c. 130) Justin Martyr (c. 150), Irenaeus (c. 180), Tertullian (c. 200), Epiphanus (c. 350) and later heresioloigsts. By far, Marcion and his Marcionites were the heretics polemicized against the most in ante-Nicaea Christianity.

Marcion was a consecrated bishop who was also a shipbuilder; a profession that took him all around the “known world” of the 2nd century. Marcion was educated, affluent, and influential. A dedicated and honest Christian, he was probably the first to realize a conspiracy in Christian theology.

The Christ of Christianity was not the propheciezed Jewish messiah.

Not only that, but Jesus’ teachings were incompatible with the teachings of the god of the Hebrew bible.

Before the “orthodoxy” and the “New Testament” had been cemented, Marcion seemed to be aware of two gospels. One a neutral gospel narrative and a highly Judaized version of it. Thus Marcion might also be the first witness of what would become the Synoptic Problem, and may have contributed to it.

Marcion by his Antitheses accuses [a gospel text] of having been interpolated by the protectors of Judaism with a view to its being so combined in one body with the law and the prophets

– Tertullian, “Against Marcion” 4.4.4

The Law was written, the Prophets were written, it stands to reason that the gospel Marcion accused the Judaizers of falsifying was written too, so as to be combined into one corpus with the Law and the Prophets. This sounds like the Ebionites who only revered a form of Matthew as being Jewish scripture along with the Law and the Prophets. And of course, Matthew is heavily based on Mark which was more than likely the original gospel.

It was probably this highly Judaized gospel that made Marcion realize that many of the “prophecies” about Jesus when read in context simply weren’t messainic prophecies. In this respect, Marcion agreed with the Jews that Jesus was not their messiah and that their messiah had not yet come. Marcion wanted to give the Jews their religion and their book back to them, instead of Christianizing Jewish scripture by reading passages out of their Jewish context to pseudo-proof-text Jesus’ status as the Jewish messiah.

So then what was Jesus, if he wasn’t the Jewish messiah?

Marcion claimed that the god of the Jews was a “just” god; a god of blind justice. And this god’s law was a neutral law – red in tooth and claw like the world of nature he created – meant to establish a covenant between himself and his chosen people. For faithfully following this god’s law, he would send the Jews a king made in his likeness – equally just, but harsh. And this god and his anointed king would give the Jews their own homeland, prosperity, and longevity. Jesus, however, was not this king. Jesus was the son of a different god. An unknown god. A higher god who did not create such a cruel world. A god of love. Not just a god of “justice”.

Much like a lot of modern deconverts from Christianity, Marcion juxtaposed the teachings of Jesus with the teachings of Yahweh and noticed the disconnect (his Antithesis noted above). How could an unchangeable god change so drastically like that? How could a god of mercy and forgiveness also be a god who creates both good and evil (Isaiah 45:7)? So for Marcion, Jesus was no longer the “christus”, the messiah or anointed one, but the “chrestus”. Chrestus (Χρηστου, pronounced “chraestou”) meant the good or useful. A difference of one iota (where that phrase comes from) between the two titles.

So for Marcion, Jesus was the Good, the son of the god of love and mercy, and Paul was his chief apostle who realized this through revelation. As Paul’s letter to Galatians explicitly states. Marcion is the first Christian to present a canon of Paul’s letters and an anti-Matthew gospel as Sacred Scripture. The first “New Testament”, which consisted of 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and the anti-Matthew gospel. Since Marcion’s profession took him all around the known world, his influence also spread likewise. By 150, Justin Martyr laments that all of the known world is following Marcion:

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them.

– Justin’s “First Apology” ch. 26

The first Roman encounter with Christians wasn’t with Catholics, but with Marcionites. Roman governors and historians like Seutonius, Tacitus, and Pliny lament that Roman citizens are following a “new, suspicious” religion that makes supplications to a “Chrestus” as they would to a god. When the Roman Catholic Church became the official religion of the Roman empire, they “corrected” these mistakes in official Roman archives.

Chrestians “corrected” to read Christians

As a result of Marcion’s canon, the “orthodoxy” had to react, and they had to react to Marcion’s worldwide popularity… already established in the mid 2nd century. They did this by presenting their own collection of Pauline epistles, the Pastoral Epistles, the Catholic epistles of 1 Peter, James, Jude, and John, Acts of the Apostles (a product of 2nd century “Acts of…” Christian literature), and a [re]Judaized version of Marcion’s anti-Matthew gospel which was first called “Luke” by Irenaeus c. 180. Our current “Luke” is more than likely an anti-Marcionite product.

The Pastoral Epistles and Acts of the Apostles are the more obvious anti-Marcionite creations, where Paul himself supposedly declares in Acts that the “unknown god” of the “Greeks” is in fact Jesus Christ (Acts 17:23). Real Greek citizens already knew who the god of the Jews was; Jews and Greeks had been interacting since the time of Alexander the Great (300 BCE). So this was actually a jab at Marcion and his unknown god. The other coincidence being that the majority of New Testament scholars conclude that the [anti-Marcionite] Pastoral Epistles were not written by the same person who wrote the other Pauline epistles.

The Marcionites’ popularity in later centuries rivaled that of the Roman church and the two competed for the title of “universal” (catholic in Greek) church. Of course, the Pauline epistles we find in our current New Testaments are not exactly the Pauline letters found in Marcion’s canon. Our current Pauline letters are a response to the Marcionite Paul to sway Marcionites to the Catholics. Which is why there are many “truisms” found in our current Pauline corpus, such as “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). This of course is not found in Marcion’s version of Galatians, with Marcion being our first witness to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Marcion did not think that Jesus was human in any sense, but only appeared human to stay hidden from the creator god, the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 3:9[1]) to secretly release man from the “curse of the law” (Gal 3:10,13) and pull a fast one on the god of the Jews’ hyper-emphasis on eye-for-an-eye justice. Though there were subtle clues left by this unknown god throughout the prophets (Eph 3:4). By sacrificing an innocent — Good Jesus (Chrest Jesus, a grammatical phrase only found in Paul/Marcion) — the law of the god of this age demanded recompense for this transgression and the agreement being that Jesus The Good took in and nullified the law to give man an escape from the law for any who believed in his sacrifice. The Catholic reinterpretation of this has the absurdity of god sacrificing himself to himself to save man from himself, instead of a god of love sacrificing its son to a separate god of bare justice to free humans from the law that a god of mercy would not create.

Marcion’s popularity was based on the more logical soteriology of his Pauline letters and his canon is the reason why Paul’s letters are seen as an authority, and why they make up the bulk of our New Testament.

The Catholic rewriting and editing of Marcion’s Paul is why the Pauline epistles are sometimes hard to follow, and why he seems to go off on tangents. There are three voices in our current “Paul”: Paul, Marcion, and the Catholic refutation of Marcion. If I were to somehow go back to Christian belief, I would become some sort of Marcionite, since Marcionite belief is more logical than modern Christianity. And as I argue, Marcionite belief is more original than Catholic belief (and its bastard little brother Protestant belief).

Ironically, Anglicizing Marcion’s (Μαρκιων) Latin/Greek name would end up as Mark.

[1]Note that Marcion’s version of Eph 3:9 has “the mystery hidden for ages from the God who created all things” (Tertullian, “Against Marcion” Book 5, chp 18)

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2009 in early Christianity, marcion, marcionism

 

Judaism, Christianity… and Buddhism

A lot of former religious types (I like to include myself a bit in that box) usually turn to Buddhism once we leave the confines of the dogmaticism of Christianity. Quite a few of my earlier posts in this blog describe some Buddhist beliefs, but I don’t necessarily call myself a Buddhist any more (though I would liberally call myself this).

There are actually arguments that Buddhism is older than “Judaism”. For example, would anyone recognize a Judaism that worshipped Yahweh and his sister/wife/consort Asarah (or Asherah)? That flies in the face of the monotheism we expect from Judaism, but it was endemic to Israelite/Judahite or otherwise Canaanite religion prior to the “Jews” (the Persian nominated elites who governed Judah) return from exile c. 500 BCE.

Though the monotheistic faith and practice recounted in the Bible likely held sway among educated, elite men in Jerusalem, the heart and soul of Israelite religion was polytheistic, concerned with meeting practical needs, and centered in the homes of common, illiterate people. [emphasis mine]

– Product review of Ancient Israel archaeologist William G. Dever’s book “Did God Have A Wife?”

Judaism as we know it — or Judaism as Jesus knew it — was finalized during the Hellenistic era when the book of Daniel was written (between 167 and 164 BCE) and after the success of the Maccabean Revolt. (Rabbinic Judaism would be finalized around 200 CE, which I would argue is the same time Catholic Christianity was crystallized).

But by the time Daniel was written Buddhists had already had proselytizing missions to Alexander (the Great)’s Greek territories; which included Judea.

The Emperor Ashoka (304 BCE – 232 BCE) was a significant early Buddhist “evangelist”; the Buddhist equivalent of Constantine. He had Buddhist missionaries in the areas controlled by Alexander’s “successors” around the same time that the Greek version of the Torah/Pentateuch (the LXX) was being translated. So it stands to reason that there were already Buddhist influences in the melting pot of culture that Christianity eventually came forth from. Anyone who thinks that Christianity is a direct, pure descendent of Judaism would be wrong. Especially since a spiritual kingdom with a spiritual messiah was unheard of in Judaism prior to Christianity. I’m not even entirely convinced that Christianity was started by any Jews at all (enter Paul’s disdain for the “law”, Marcion his popularizer, and early 2nd century Roman reports of a new religion founded by a certain “Chrestus” [the good] instead of Christus [messiah] that historians conclude is about Jesus). Christians certainly didn’t get the virgin birth meme from Judaism; that was rampant in Greek and Roman myths.

Who knows, maybe Jesus himself was a Buddhist! lol We don’t actually know what the “historical Jesus” practiced or believed so that would be up in the air. Considering the myriads of “historical Jesus” profiles there have been – many of them contradictory – there’s nothing stopping someone from positing that Jesus might have had a bit of Buddhist influences on his teaching. R. Joseph Hoffman argues that each scholar and historian who offers a profile of the historical Jesus simply presents a Jesus made in their own image (which follows the trend for the general religious population). And as I pointed out in an earlier post, Christian Gnosticism and Buddhism have a lot in common.

In the early era of Christendom (after Constantine), a lot of Christian missionaries to the Eastern lands encountered Buddhists, and confused them for wayward Christians.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2009 in 2nd temple judaism, buddhism, early Christianity

 

Gospel of Matthew: For or Against Judaism?

Udo Schnelle does for and against lists:

For Matthew being Jewish:

  • The fundamental affirmation of the Law (cf. Matt 5.17-20; 23.3a, 23b).
  • The sustained reference to the Old Testament and the emphatic application of the idea of fulfilment (cf. e.g. Matt 1.22-23;2.5-6, 15, 17-18; 3.3; 4.4-16; 8.17 and others).
  • The fundamental limitation of Jesus’ mission to Israel (cf. Matt 10.5-6; 15.24).
  • The Matthean community still keeps the Sabbath (cf. Matt 24.20).
  • The Matthean community still lives within the jurisdiction of Judaism (cf. Matt 17.24-27; 23.1-3).
  • The Moses typology in Matt 2.13ff.; 4.1-2; 5.1 and the five great discourses in the Gospel present Jesus as having an affinity to Moses.
  • The language, structure, reception of the Gospel of Matthew point to a Jewish Christian as its author.

Against:

  • The Gospel’s offer of salvation to all clearly points to a Gentile mission that has been underway for some time (cf. Matt 28.18-20; 8.11-12; 10.18; 12.18, 21; 13.38a; 21.43-45; 22.1-14; 24.14; 25.32; 26.13).
  • The nullification of ritual laws (cf. Matt 15.11, 20b; 23.25-26).
  • The Matthean critique of the Law. Especially in the Antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5.21-48) Jesus places his own authority higher than that of Moses, for which there is no parallel in ancient Judaism.
  • Matthew presents a thoroughgoing polemic against Pharisaic casuistry (cf. Matt 5.20; 6.1ff.; 9.9ff.; 12.1ff., 9ff.; 15.1ff.; 19.1ff.; 23.1ff.)
  • Matthew avoids Aramaisms (cf. Mark 1.13/ Matt 4.2; Mark 5.41/ Matt 9.25; Mark 7.34/ Matt 15.30; Mark 7.11/ Matt 15.5).
  • The Matthean community understands its life to be at some distance from that of the synagogue (cf. Matt 23.34b ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς ὑμῶν [in your synagogues]; Matt 7.29b καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτων [and not as their scribes]).
  • Ritual prescriptions for the Sabbath have lost their significance (cf. Matt 12.1-8).
  • The rejection of Israel, i.e. that Israel has lost its distinct place in the history of salvation, has been accepted by Matthew as reality for some time (cf. Matt 21.43; 22.9; 8.11-12; 21.39ff.; 27.25; 28.15).

He adds:
The tension between these two lists is best understood to mean that the evangelist Matthew is the advocate of a liberal Hellenistic Diaspora Jewish Christianity that had been engaged in the Gentile mission for some time. The lack of any reference to the debate over circumcision in Matthew points in the same direction, for in the earlier conservative Palestinian Judaism the relaxing of the practice of circumcision was regarded as contempt for the Torah, while in the broad circles of Hellenistic Diaspora Judaism circumcision was not considered an important issue.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2009 in early Christianity

 

Born Again

Is Justin Martyr the origin for the phrase “born again”?

Και γαρ ο Χριστος ειπεν· Αν μη αναγεννηθητε, ου μη εισελθητε εις την βασιλειαν των ουρανων.

For Christ also said: Unless you are born again, you shall not go into the kingdom of heaven.

– Justin, First Apology 1.61.4

The above bolded phrase is literally “reborn”. Contrast this with what’s found in John 3:

3 απεκριθη ιησους και ειπεν αυτω αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη ανωθεν ου δυναται ιδειν την βασιλειαν του θεου

3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

This part is a bit trickier. The phrase here γεννηθη ανωθεν::gennithi anothen has a double meaning that makes sense of Nicodemus’ confusion. It can mean both “born again” and “born from above”. In the entire canonical New Testament, this is one of two times that ανωθεν is used to mean “again”. All other times it’s used to mean “from above”. Off the top of my head, the only other time is in one of Paul’s letters where he complains about having to do something “all over again”, as in from the beginning (don’t feel like looking it up right now lol).

So poor Nic is confused about what it means to be “born again” since you can’t crawl back into your mother’s womb to be born a second time. Jesus replies “You idiot, I meant anothen as in from above; as in from the spirit”. If John had Jesus say αναγεγεννημενοι as 1 Peter says (1:23), then the context in John wouldn’t have made sense.

So it seems as though John had a literary/entertainment reason for having Jesus say “born again/from above”. But it can go either way – did John reappropriate this from Justin and put it in a literary context, or did Justin fub and simply recall this “saying” from John? Surely an educated philosopher like Justin would have remembered the context of the phrase “born from above”.

Another odd thing is that “kingdom of heaven” is a phrase only found in Matthew.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in born again, gospel of john, justin martyr

 

The Fourth Synoptic: Marcion’s Gospel

The most recent debate of the Synoptic Problem resulted in a dead-lock: The best-established solutions, the Two-Source-Hypothesis and the Farrer-Goodacre-Theory, are burdened with a number of apparent weaknesses. On the other hand, the arguments raised against these theories are cogent. An alternative possibility, that avoids the problems created by either of them, is the inclusion of the gospel used by Marcion. This gospel is not a redaction of Luke, but rather precedes Matthew and Luke and, therefore, belongs into the maze of the synoptic interrelations. The resulting model avoids the weaknesses of the previous theories and provides compelling and obvious solutions to the notoriously difficult problems.

– From here

This actually makes a lot of sense. If canonical Matthew and Luke are reimaged versions of Mark, why not include Marcion’s version as well? I think later Christians assumed that Marcion’s gospel derived from Luke because of Marcion’s reverence for Paul, and Paul supposedly using Luke’s gospel. So if Marcion used Paul’s “gospel”, then he was using “Luke”.

The bold arrows (1, 2, 3) indicate the main influence within the synoptic tradition, “main influence” here meaning that the post-texts adopt not only the general narrative outline from their pre-texts but also display, at least partially, verbatim agreements. The bold arrow (2) states what is obvious: Matthew is basically a re-edition of Mark, although enriched with further material. The new element in the picture is the influence (3) from Mcn to Luke. On the assumption of Mcn’s priority, there is no doubt that Luke followed Mcn very closely: as far as can be told, Luke did not interfere with Mcn’s wording substantially. Mcn is, in other words, a sort of Proto-Luke.

[…]

The dashed arrows (a, b) indicate an additional but minor influence of Mcn on Matthew and on Luke. In some respect, (a) and (b) most clearly show the advancement of this “Markan priority with Mcn” hypothesis: with respect to the far-reaching conformity between Mcn and Luke, the dashed arrows (a, b) indicate a bi-directional influence within the double tradition: there are elements running from Mcn to Matthew and others from Matthew to Luke’s re-edition of Mcn.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2009 in luke, marcion, paul, synoptic problem

 

Does the Existence of a Personal God (Who Has a Master Plan) Make Life Meaningless?

I played the first “Fable” game on the Xbox 360 a couple of years ago. In that game you had the ability to be “good” or “evil”, depending on your actions. One time I got bored and decided to kill every single person in every single village I came across. Every merchant, every civilian, every guard, every wife. Everyone.

It was kinda ridiculous, but I was at an insanely huge level so I didn’t need any potions or anything else.

In this game, the main purpose was to defeat Jack of Blades. That was the grand, overreaching “master plan” so to say of the game designers. No matter how moral or immoral you were in the game, the game would end the same way – Jack of Blades’ defeat.

Now imagine that a god with a grand, master plan exists. Life would be a lot like Fable, where you could dedicate your life to altruism and helping the poor, or spend your free time on cross country killing sprees. If god has some master plan, nothing you do can change his plan. In other words in the grand scheme of things, going into a maternity ward and slaughtering every newborn there has absolutely no effect on god’s plan. Equally so, dedicating your life to the improvement of humanity has no effect on god’s plan. It’s going to come to fruition either way.

If this is the case, then what’s the point? It seems like veiled nihilism to me. No matter what we do, it doesn’t matter to god. His plan is going to be executed no matter what. The fact that we don’t even know what this master plan is supposed to be is what makes it veiled. So “god works in mysterious ways” equals veiled nihilism.

And what if this god is actually malevolent instead of benevolent like in the more popular theisms? We are screwed. And there’s no way to tell, either way. But it does look like any god who created the world did so because he/she/it wanted to see maximal suffering.

On the flip side…

If there’s no god with a master plan then everything you do has meaning; and potentially huge implications to the course of humanity. Like the Butterfly Effect. Take for example the thing in Philly that was going on last year (that I was involved in) called “Free Hugs” at Rittenhouse Square.

What if, simply giving a hug to a stranger made them not commit suicide that day, and then they decide to live and eventually become the next Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or Einstein? Even the most seemingly insignificant acts to your fellow human being could completely alter the course of human history. Or what if you’re a decorated British soldier in World War I named Henry Tandey who had been killing Germans all day, and notice one German obviously wounded after a long battle walk into your sights. You decide not to pull the trigger and let him live. He nods at you thankfully knowing that you spared him and hobbles off and disappears into the smoke. Then 20 years later you find out that the German you let live was a young Adolf Hitler?

So without a personal god with a master plan, life actually has meaning. Purpose. Things that you do might actually matter in the grand scheme of things. If there’s no predetermined end-game, then who knows how things might turn out. Some people are absolutely horrified of uncertainty, but I always see it as a blessing. Uncertainty means that there are still things to find out, and that there’s always room to grow. It’s like Einstein’s pantheism, where he’s struck by awe at the universe. That natural curiosity. Like a movie where you don’t know how it’s going to end.

So if there’s a god with a master plan, everything you do is pointless. But if no god exists, then everything you do has potentially huge ramifications. If there’s a god with a master plan, then your only true responsibility (if any responsibility at all) is to your self. If there’s no god, then your responsibility necessarily includes more people than yourself, since your actions have an impact on your environment.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in atheism, einstein, nihilism, pantheism, personal god

 

Revelation, Revolution

So apparently there’s a new book out about how the Bible was really put together. Many Christian scholars and seminary students know this, but they preach the simplified versions to their congregations. I wrote in an email to a friend (well, ex-friend and ex-gf) that if she wanted to get the real picture about Christian origins, she would have to go to a Religious Studies department in a university, not her local church.

This is a review on Amazon.com:

Jack Good is an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, retired from decades of preaching in New York and Illinois. In “The Dishonest Church,” Good reveals that most of his fellow pastors in the mainstream American churches are systematically preaching from their pulpits teachings which they themselves know to be blatant lies.

Why the systematic lying?

The basic problem, Good explains, is a divergence during the last several centuries between what he calls “academic” Christianity and what he dubs “popular” Christianity. As early as the Renaissance, scholars such as Erasmus began applying the intellectual tools that were being developed in science, history, etc. to better understand, purify, and solidify their Christian faith.

By the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, an increasing number of scholars and intellectuals were coming to realize that Christianity could not actually be historically true. In the nineteenth century, the floodgates opened. From David Strauss’s “Life of Jesus” to Albert Schweitzer’s “The Quest of the Historical Jesus,” scholarly research proved that the Bible was a crazy mish-mash of garbled history, Jewish mythology, and fantasies based on pagan stories of “virgin” births, resurrected savior gods, etc.

By the early twentieth century, F. C. Burkitt, in an introduction to Schweitzer’s famous book, could confidently assert as an established fact among educated people, “Every one nowadays is aware that traditional Christian doctrine about Jesus Christ is encompassed with difficulties, and that many of the statements in the Gospels appear incredible in the light of modern views of history and nature.”

How can it be that most Americans are ignorant of this?

Good opens his book with a telling anecdote:

“One of my clergy friends boasts of a comment he made in an interview with a pastoral search committee. A somewhat hostile member of the committee demanded to know if this prospective pastor believed in a literal virgin birth. My friend replied that his views on the virgin birth were the same as those of St. Paul. The committee member nodded approvingly, and the discussion went on to other matters.”

As Good explains, his friend was counting on the fact that the members of the committee would be ignorant of the fact that nowhere does St. Paul make any reference at all to the virgin birth: scholars assume Paul had no acquaintance whatsoever with the doctrine. Thus, Good’s friend, who did not believe in the Virgin Birth, could “honestly” claim to hold the same view as St. Paul!

Good adds, “Clergy tend to see such moments as victories over the benighted folk who occupy church pews.”

So, are America’s pastors and religious leaders simply pathological liars?

Much of the explanation, Good claims, is simply economic self-interest. He states that “my fellow professionals… are motivated by fear… clergy fear the loss of their jobs… These professionals… are killing the church by their lack of courage.”

But Good also titles one of his sections “Pleasure in Power,” declaring, “I fear that denominational officials and professional theologians perpetuate the present state of affairs because they have come to enjoy too much their role as sole owners and manipulators of the sacred symbols. Consciously or unconsciously, they leave their church members in a state of semi-darkness because otherwise they would have to share prestige and authority.”

Finally, Good concedes that many of his colleagues honestly fear that the adults in their congregations simply lack the maturity to handle the truth and that telling the truth would therefore result in the destruction of Christianity.

The bulk of the book consists of Good’s attempts to argue, based on his own experience, that such fears are groundless.

These attempts are unconvincing.

Good has managed to avoid lying to his own congregations, and his churches did not collapse. He concludes that his truthful form of Christianity can survive and even prosper. He argues that there are many “Christians in exile” whose orientation towards life finds “an especially luminous form in Jesus of Nazareth.”

His view is short-sighted. There are certainly many Americans who suspect, or know, that the Virgin Birth and Resurrection did not actually occur but who nonetheless wish to be members of a “Christian” church. But is their desire really a result of any personal fascination or adoration for a purely human Jewish carpenter/religious reformer who lived two thousand years ago? Or is it more a matter of familial inertia and social conformity that makes it emotionally difficult for them to make a completely clean break with Christianity?

Good argues that the popular view of Jesus as “an adult equivalent of the child’s invisible friend,” always there to smooth over the difficulties of life, is untrue to the Gospels. On the contrary, “Jesus never intended to be an answer man. Instead of making human problems go away, he seemed intent on creating a new set of concerns. Through both words and example, he defined the requirements of discipleship… even to the point of joining him in crucifixion.”

Yes, and some of us do indeed find this Jesus for grown-ups more inspiring than the Sunday-school Jesus of “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

But why make Jesus the sole or primary center of such inspiration? Why should such concern focus primarily on Jesus rather than on Socrates, Buddha, Tolstoy, the pagan martyr Hypatia (murdered by a brutal Christian mob) or scores of other thoughtful, courageous human beings throughout history?

The appeal of Christianity for rational, educated people who know the truth is simply nostalgia. If everyone comes to know the truth and there are no more “true believers,” Christianity will fade away. Good’s variety of “progressive” Christianity is simply a temporary rest stop on the road from orthodox Christianity to the final destination of outright atheism.

Good forthrightly declares, “The lying must stop in all Christian congregations.” Yes, even if the ultimate result is the end of Christianity.

I noticed this a while ago:

It’s probably even deeper than that. Yeah, these preachers need to make a livelihood… but think about it. They had to pay for their education. They might have entered seminary or biblical scholarship under the pretense that everything they learned in church (the simple stuff) was true: inerrancy, original autographs, consistency, etc. but halfway through their seminary discovered that this stuff wasn’t as cut-and-dried as they naively thought prior to entering seminary.

What are they gonna do at this point? Wash all that money on education down the drain? No – they have to continue their investment! And make sure that their investment pays off – by getting a job and perpetuating the “simple” version of biblical criticism to their congregations.

It’s more than just securing a paycheck. It’s securing an investment

So what will happen once the real story about Christian origins comes out? The things that I, and many people smarter than me (like the scholars), know? Will it be the end of Christianity, or will it simply morph into some other form? I fear that it’ll be more of that same dilemma I noted a while ago. I’m trying to do my part by posting some stuff on facebook, but I would like to do more.

If it comes to choosing between faith and objectivity, people will cling to faith because it feels good. Necessarily, this will lead to deception; which is what our intellectuals have been doing to us common folk since the dawn of history to keep us in line.

Sometimes, some of us are fed up with the bullshit and look to see if there really is an intimidating man behind the booming voice.

There isn’t.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2009 in apologetics, early Christianity

 
 
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My ὑπομνήματα about religion

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My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

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My ὑπομνήματα about religion

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My ὑπομνήματα about religion

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My ὑπομνήματα about religion

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