Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Are Miracles Essential to Religion?

I do enjoy April DeConick's blog. Most of it is over my head. Some of it has to do with scholarly politics (ie. the shenanigans at the SBL and what not). But I like to check in now and then because she certainly is on the button (at least in my view) regarding history. In her latest post, Talking About Miracles, she writes:
When miracles are attributed to famous people in historical writings - and there are many examples beyond Jesus - historians start with the position that these are stories meant to attribute certain superpowers or status to the famous person, or are being used to show the ancient reader that the person being described was thought to be extra-ordinary, divine or godlike. Why should the historical study of Jesus be any different in terms of method?
Exactly. And she writes:
I am not going to get into the discussion about whether or not miracles can or cannot happen. I am tired of that discourse and all the false labeling that goes on with it. What I want us to face is the fact that we, as biblical scholars, are willing to suspend what we know about our world when it comes to Jesus and so-called historical research about him, but we are not willing to do so for other figures.
I think I have said the same thing off and on, but it is nice when a Ph. D. says it.

I have been wondering about all the miracle business for some time. Does religion need the miraculous? I personally find that all the miracle hoopla around Jesus detracts from his message(s).

Many cannot imagine a Christianity without the miraculous Jesus. If they were to recognize Jesus as an historian does, a person who had miracle stories attached to him like they were for other figures, then it wouldn't be worth their time to go to church.

I wonder how many people really feel that way. I suppose many do. I would say there are others who put up with all the miraculous stuff and attend religious activities in spite of it, not because of it.

What I find interesting is that this conversation is happening out in the open these days. It is incredibly frightening for some. Others are refreshed.

Miraculous-oriented Christians are pretty upset and defensive these days. They think that their version of Christianity (which they believe is Christianity) is being attacked by the non-miraculous-oriented Christians. We see this divide surface in popular culture over things like movies such as The Golden Compass.

Then of course there are the Christians who are in a half-way house. They understand the historical Jesus and so forth but feel the need to keep the miraculous story going. They are the most complicated as they have to do a lot of double-thinking. I find myself in this half-way position a great deal.

For instance, as we approach Christmas, we will sing about the Virgin and tell the Christmas story. None of this happened, as I see it. It is all part of the miraculous legend that was told about Jesus long after the fact. He wasn't born of a virgin any more than you were.

Yet I affirm both the incarnation and that Jesus was born of a humanly impregnated human being just like everybody else. The goal of the half-ways is to find the meaning of the incarnation. The half-ways have fun with the mystical aspect of God being born within us, and being among us, and one with us, and of course we love the pageantry and music, well some of it. We like it as we like a good novel, movie, or story.

Frankly, I love a good holiday, but I could do without the miraculous Christ. The historical study of early Christian origins is far more interesting. For me, it is not just interesting on an intellectual level, but also on a level of how to live my life, how I arrange my values, how I find my "center" if you will.

At some point, I wonder if the half-ways are going to need to make a decision. This decision is being forced upon us in one sense as more and more people are really seeing Christianity as a bunch of bunk. The growth of miraculous Christianity among the neocons and the credulous makes it even more bizarre (creation museums, anti-gay legislation based on the Bible, Armageddon and support for Israel, and so forth).

The divisions now surfacing in the mainline churches will increase I am afraid. It won't be because we are not nice to each other or can't get along. Some of it is that, I suppose. Eventually, the division will happen in the mainline churches between the miraculous-oriented and the non-miraculous oriented. I think it will reach a point in which it is obvious.

The two orientations will realize that they have very little in common with one another. It will come down to those who believe Jesus was actually born of a Virgin (or some other dogma) and those who don't.

I feel a little for the half-ways. They will eventually have to grudgingly go along with one side or the other. Or maybe the half-ways will somehow win the day. Perhaps the center will hold. I am not holding my breath.

53 comments:

  1. This kind of thing comes up a lot if you engage with atheist thought for any length of time. The common statement goes something like "Everyone is atheist with regard to Thor or Marduk, or any number of other gods and goddesses - I just add one to the total - Yahweh."

    Its just as reasonable to ask why we were skeptical of all miracles but the ones attributed to Our Guy in Our Book.

    I'm fine with people who want to believe in the possibility of miracles generally, and therefore by extension Jesus' miracles, but if we approach the ancient world in this affirming way, we need to admit that it is a place that is described as absolutely thick with miracles...

    ReplyDelete
  2. For me, it's not so much a matter of the NT miracles in and of themselves. Really, the miracles of Christ for the most part are just one witness to the reality of Jesus, and help point to the coming of God's kingdom. (They are not an end in themselves.) Jesus was not a magician performing tricks to entertain folks.

    Although, I personally see no good reason to not interpret them in a literal sense, I would not divide from a church, or from other Christians, over this issue.

    I feel that the center of our faith as Christians does center in the reality of the incarnation, and the work of the cross. This shows the depth of God's love for us, that He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

    But, John, I'll be honest with you. I think that the unique divinity of Jesus Christ (incarnation) is truly a church dividing issue.

    I graduated from probably the most progressive seminary of my denomination in the whole country, so I"m aware of some of the scholarship and theories that are out there.

    But, personally, I feel so strongly that I would not have had my own kids, when they were young, in a church catechism or S.S. class, where the teacher could not affirm that the Jesus of history was fully God, and fully man, both our Savior and Lord.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a full-fledged child of the Enlightenment, I'm not surprised that John would echo Thomas Jefferson.

    Famously, Jefferson edited his own Bible with all the narrative and especially the supernatural miracles stripped out. He wanted to filter out what he considered nonessential and concentrate on, as the official title of the book reads, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. For a long time it was given to new members of Congress, though I'm a little unsure when or why the tradition stopped.

    My personal opinion on miracles is that they may or may not have happened. If they didn't, it doesn't really affect my faith, since the most important part of Jesus life on Earth to me is the message. I realize that many don't share this view, and I try to respect that. I think John touched on this in his controversial Easter sermon. It's an important question for Christians to ask themselves: if you got incontrovertible proof that Mary was impregnated by Joseph or that Jesus is actually in a tomb somewhere in Jerusalem, would you still be a Christian? Why or why not? Is the message of "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love you neighbor as yourself" dependent on the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Guys,

    I want to add that I think above all we need to love each other deeply thorough everything, and wholly trust God to bring truth and unity to His church.

    I agree that all Christians should purpose to love God and their neighbor. (This is a theme that's really common to all faiths, nothing unique there in the teaching of Jesus.)

    But, a central part of the message of the church is that we can't do this in our own strength, that we need a Savior. The life and death of Christ provide so much more than just a good example for all of us to try and follow.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post, John.

    I think it is funny how people who would never take seriously in a million years miraculous claims in any other context will suddenly turn into five-year-old believers in Santa Claus when it comes to Christianity. I just don't get it.

    To answer your question, "Does religion need the miraculous?", the answer is clearly no. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--religious should not have to be about believing the unbelievable.

    ReplyDelete
  6. But, Mystical, you don't understand. Everyone knows that Santa Claus is a mythical character. And, even in pre-modern times, people did not expect a miracle a minute.

    But, if we truly accept that God made the universe and everything in it, how can we totally rule out the miraculous? It seems completely illogical to me. Of course we need to be discerning, but, should our minds be completely closed, and conditioned by rationalism?

    Some folks accept the miraculous not because they have the intellect of five year olds, but because they have thought through many of these issues in depth.

    God have mercy, Mystical. You are a hard case. :)

    God bless!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Everyone knows that Santa Claus is a mythical character.

    Exactly. And yet people suddenly chuck their credulity out the window when it comes to religion. That is what I find so bizarre. People can be perfectly rational in other contexts, and yet when it comes to religion so many people revert to their five-year-old states.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Are Miracles Essential to Religion?

    No. Only faith is essential to religion.

    But I still pray that Righty gets "Raptured" so we'll be rid of them.

    Hey, one can hope, can't one?

    ReplyDelete
  9. But, I don't think that Jesus is mythical, Mystical. (That has a kind of rhymn to it.) If I did, I certainly wouldn't waste my time with the Christian church.

    How can Jesus Christ be compared to Santa Claus, or for that matter to some of these eastern myths of dying and rising gods given as reasons for the cycle of the seasons? Lord have mercy!

    On no, I feel a debate comin on. Mystical, are you open to seeing this in another way? I don't want to be just beating you over the head with the Bible so to speak. Tell me, and I'll zip my lips, promise. :)

    Peace.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Shame on your wickedness, ((tn420))

    I once saw this bumper sticker, something like, "If you're raptured, can I have your car."
    (LOL)

    But, guys, when God's kingdom comes in all it's total fullness and glory, we won't be thinking about cars, or who we want to get rid of, that's for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The point I am making about Santa Claus isn't that he is a mythical person, but that the things that children believe he does defy the laws of reason. Even if Santa Claus were a real person, the things attributed to him that children, not adults, can believe. I'm comparing belief in virgin births, resurrections, and walking on water with belief that a large fat man knows whether every child was naughty or nice and magically manages to visit every single home in the course of a single night.

    When I was in second grade, a classmate convinced me that Santa Claus didn't exist. The arguments he used were completely logical. He pointed out that it was impossible for any human being to keep track of the fact that every single child was naughty or nice. I don't recall him going into the whole business of a flying sleigh or there not being enough time for him to visit every single home even if they all had chimneys.

    It was the recognition that what Santa Claus was alleged to do was not credible in the real world that I found convincing as a small child.

    Otherwise intelligent adults who wouldn't for a moment believe in flying reindeer will turn around and claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. That falls into the "c'mon, give me a break" category of credulity. Personally, it baffles me to no end.

    ReplyDelete
  12. But, Mystical, Christians don't believe that Jesus was a mere man. Maybe that's what makes all the difference.

    Also, and I'm speaking for myself personally, I don't rule out the seemingly miraculous even today, unexplained healing for example.

    Although, different Christian believers have various opinions about this as well as things such as dreams or visions from God.

    Mystical, how can all this be totally ruled out? I can't see it.

    I want to ask you something, and you don't have to respond, here. But, do you think it at all possible that your religious background as a child may also have something to do with your feelings and reaction in this area?

    So often, I've notice that many times folks that have the deepest problems with orthodox Christianity tend to come from very unloving, legalistic kinds of fundamentalist backgrounds, or where there was a very narrow, judgemental view of Christian faith.

    I think that there is a connection, somehow.

    ReplyDelete
  13. But, Mystical, Christians don't believe that Jesus was a mere man. Maybe that's what makes all the difference.

    Yes, of course, that's what I've been saying all along. As soon as many people get into religious territory, they suddenly become credulous. This is what baffles me.

    You go through life expecting that the universe obeys certain laws. You expect the law of gravity to behave today as it did yesterday. You drop an object from a tower, and it will fall to the earth every time. You expect biological principles to work the same as they always did. And so on. Christians who believe in miracles thus engage in a process of compartmentalization. In most of their lives, they act as rational human beings. And then, when it comes to religion, they become five-year-olds who believe in magic and fairy tales.

    That's all I'm sayin'.

    As for my upbringing, it isn't the judgmentalism of fundamentalism that concerns me in this instance, although that is another can of worms. What concerns me here is the magical thinking part of much of religion faith--and not just fundamentalists, but many moderates and liberals as well. Sure, I was brought up to believe that Genesis was a literal depiction of the creation of the earth, and I eventually came to realize that fundamentalism cannot be reconciled with science. But here's the thing--this isn't really a fundamentalism versus progressive Christian thing, because lots (maybe most) liberal Christians seem to also believe in things like the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. It was when I came to see this sort of thing even in the progressive churches that I've become acquainted with that I became more frustrated with a lot of progressive Christianity.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm so sorry ((Mystical,)) :( and wish very much that I could help.

    You do realize that there are plenty of atheists who feel that even to think there is a personal, loving God who is there is a pretty childish, unproven kind of assumption, like believing in Santa Claus.

    But, from my perspective, once we are willing to concede that God is, then how can we limit His intervention in His own creation.

    Of course, I'm more about stressing the immanence of God, rather than a God out there somewhere. I feel that it's "in Him that we live, and move, and have our being."

    Maybe what we consider to be miraculous from a human perspective are things that are just outside of finite human understanding. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mystical:

    Do you believe in Free Will?

    If you do, then you don't believe that your body obeys the laws of physics (otherwise your every action would be determined) and every choice you act upon is a miracle!

    ReplyDelete
  16. But, from my perspective, once we are willing to concede that God is, then how can we limit His intervention in His own creation.


    Grace, you are assuming that God is omnipotent. It was only once I realized that omnipotence is not inherent to the concept of God that I was able to rediscover a belief in the existence of God. I believe, as process theologians do, that God is actively involved in the world at all times. I believe that this activity is persuasive rather than coercive. This means that God does not coercively "intervene" in the world through miracles.

    You keep saying that you believe in a magical conception of the universe that is full of miracles because you believe in God and that's what God does. But your mistake is in assuming that this is what God necessarily does. If God is not omnipotent, then the contradiction between rationalism and a belief in God disappears. You can have your cake and eat it too--you can have a rational understanding of the world that operates according to physical laws, and you can also believe in an infinite, loving God who is the ultimate source of the evolutionary processes that govern the universe. As far as I am concerned, this is the only way out of the conundrum that you place yourself in.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think it might depend on how one defines miraculous -- if we're going with something that defies the law of nature, such as feeding the 5,000 or walking on water, then I would say no. Mostly because how often do we see the miraculous of that nature within religions today? I do often see, in all sorts of religions, God being thanked for providing a sense of peace, or the "small stuff" (such as guidance in what school to go to or who to marry. Not that marriage is small, but it's small compared to someone healing a leper, if that makes sense) or evne God being thanked for providing the right doctor in helping a disease.

    But how often is there big stuff? Everything listed above can easily be left to chance, in a way. We don't really have instances where we see someone who has their skin falling off, and then three seconds later, is radically healed. Religions don't seem dependent upon that type of miraculous. Probably because if they were, they wouldn't survive.

    ReplyDelete
  18. One small step, I agree with you.

    In a way, I think the entire universe is one big miracle. The fact that there is something rather than nothing--that's a miracle. The fact that we are alive and breathing and able to enjoy the beauty of the world--that's a miracle too. I would describe very laws of nature are a miracle.

    Maybe the miraculous can be truly be found in the ordinary and the mundane, the very activities and processes of ordinary life.

    ReplyDelete
  19. OneSmallStep makes a good point.

    It's like the "Manna" in the wilderness. They ate Quail crap. Simple as that.
    But when one is starving to death, almost any source of nutrition showing up unexpectedly could be viewed as having divine intervention.

    What bothers me the most about all the fabricated "virgin birth", "physical resurrection" poppycock is that it only serves to detract from the life and lessons of Jesus.

    But that's the reason the Fundis push it. Like the Catholic church they uphold, they need to control naive people with their lies.

    Hey, it fills the plates. #1 priority for Fundis. To heel with faith! It won't buy a Mercedes!

    ReplyDelete
  20. But, Mystical there are folks who just don't accept the existence of God no matter what, barring miracles or no. They're not ready to accept anything that cannot be seen or proven physically. Are you sharing that belief in the omnipotence of God, led you to atheism? I'm not sure, I understand, here.

    I definitely agree that the universe is a miracle, in and of itself, that God created something out of nothing. That is the greatest miracle. (Yay, common ground.)

    Well, tn420, I gather that you're not too fond of the fundamentalists. But, God have mercy, Tn, I don't think folks have to necessarily be fundamentalists to affirm the bodily resurrection of the Lord. Just bog standard Christians, as an Anglican friend would put it.

    To tell the truth, friends, I don't know alot of people that I would consider to be true fundamentalists in our mainline denominations.

    Now head down to Bob Jones University, those folks are definitely fundamentalists. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. But, Mystical there are folks who just don't accept the existence of God no matter what, barring miracles or no. They're not ready to accept anything that cannot be seen or proven physically.

    Yes, that's true, and it was probably one factor for me as well when I became an atheist at age 16. However, I think that this sort of extreme commitment to empiricism is only one reason why one might choose not to believe in God.

    Are you sharing that belief in the omnipotence of God, led you to atheism? I'm not sure, I understand, here.

    It was one factor. Not the only one, but it was one. I could not (and still cannot) reconcile an omnipotent God with the problem of evil; I could not (and still cannot) reconcile the idea of miraculous divine intervention with a post-enlightenment understanding of how the world works. And both of those problems (theodicy and rationalism) ran smack up agains the notion of intercessory prayer. Removing omnipotence from the equation solved a whole host of problems for me. It was what made it possible for me to explore the idea of belief in God again. A necessary condition, but not a sufficient one, since I also had to reorient my concept of God in other ways.

    By that I mean that omnipotence itself is perhaps an incomplete way of describing the problem that I see. To me, omnipotence is just part of a conception of God that Borg calls supernatural theism. I found that seeing God as kind of meta-reality or a metaphysical framework gives meaning to the physical world that I live in; and therein I found my response to those people who take the extreme empiricist position that I mentioned above. This was the other major piece of the puzzle. But it all began with my rejection of omnipotence. But until I came to understand that omnipotence was not a necessary part of the concept of God, it was never going to be possible for me to believe.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Mystical,

    I have to run out today for an all day training. Ughh! But, I'll try to come by here this evening to talk so more. See you later. :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. I understand, Mystical. I think it is hard to reconcile the concept of an all powerful, but loving God with the existence of evil and suffering. Who has not struggled with this.

    But, from my perspective, if God is not all powerful as well as loving, how can we have any confidence at all that death and evil with ever be finally defeated for ever. The resurrection of Christ as a witness to victory over sin and death would seem pretty meaningless to me.

    Christians believe that eventually all evil will be vanquished, but for now, the only way that this can happen is for God to take away free will. Part of His love, I think, is that He allows His creatures to choose, sometimes even to choose evil, or paths that lead to suffering.

    I'm certainly not saying, Mystical, that when people suffer it's all their fault. Of course, I don't believe that. But, in a general sense all evil and suffering is connected with the reality of human brokeness.

    Lee Stoebel, has written a book called "The Case For Faith." He addresses this issue, as well as other challenges, from the perspective of orthodox Christianity. It's pretty basic, and I know that you have alot of theological knowledge, but still, you might find it thought provoking.

    The Christian church teaches that God is both transcendant, and also immanent in the creation. He is greater and seperate from all that He's made. But, yet it is in Him that all things hold together, that we live, and move, and have our being.

    It's a paradox, and a mystery, Mystical Seeker.

    ReplyDelete
  24. **if God is not all powerful as well as loving, how can we have any confidence at all that death and evil with ever be finally defeated for ever. The resurrection of Christ as a witness to victory over sin and death would seem pretty meaningless to me.**

    But you don't need God to be all-powerful for this to occur. You simply need God to be more powerful than death and evil, and able to defeat it in the end.

    **Part of His love, I think, is that He allows His creatures to choose, sometimes even to choose evil, or paths that lead to suffering.**

    I think what causes this to fall apart for many is that what about those who don't choose evil? Such as those who don't choose to be murdered or abused. Their free will is violated, and takes the backseat to those who choose to murder or abuse. The other problem is that we don't always let people choose evil. If we know that someone is going to choose to kill themselves, we step in and stop it, because we know the person is blinded by depression or another negative emotion. If we know that someone is going to kill another person, we are obligated to step in and stop it, or we hold responsibility. We recognize that free will must have limits.

    ReplyDelete
  25. One Small Step, I think you've hit the nail on the head, and provided some excellent examples. Victims of other people's acts of evil are hardly exercising their free will in those cases. And we humans engage in interventionism all the time to help others who are victims. We make heroes of people who do such things--those who rescue people from burning houses, or reach out to pull back a pedestrian when a car is coming, or chase down a pickpocket or rapist, or whatever. When we have the power to act to help a victim, we do it.

    If I have the ability to prevent a crime, should I refrain because I don't want to violate the criminal's free will? Of course not.

    It seems to me that proponents of an omnipotent God often want to have it both ways. They will claim that God has intervened throughout history at various times. But then when you point to the existence of evil that God doesn't prevent (and really big ones like the Holocaust), suddenly it is a case of "Whoa! God can't intervene because that would violate free will!" Well, which is it? Does God intervene or not? Once you open the doors to intervention, the free will argument is highly problematic. The better solution, as I see it, is to accept free will as inherent to the universe but to also recognize that God doesn't have the power to intervene.

    Grace, your question about how your current religious paradigm could survive without an omnipotent God sounds like an argument from fear. To hold onto a belief because you are afraid of the consequences doesn't sound like a very convincing argument to me. This is similar to creationists who believe that their entire faith system would come crashing down if Genesis weren't literally true. This approach from fear is the source of a lot of dogmatism in religion. It may be comforting, but it isn't very liberating. I prefer liberation over comfort.

    Personally, I am an agnostic on the subject of life after death. It isn't want my faith is about. But I do know that others who share a similar perspective on God from my own do believe in life after death, and who believe that life after death can be integrated with, for example, a panentheistic or process theology perspective.

    What I see underlying your question about "how can my faith still solve such and such" just takes for granted that religion has to be about solving a given religious "problem", and it seems to be unable to step back and consider that not all religious paradigms seek to solve the same "problem" in the first place. This is what I see going on in dialogues between fundamentalist Christians and Jews, for example; fundamentalist Christians often can't get it into their heads that Judaism doesn't share the same paradigm that they have, that it isn't oriented as fundamentalist Christianity is around "salvation" or "getting into heaven".

    It seems to me that there are no guarantees in life. The great thing about a non-omnipotent God as I see it is that God took risks. It was a huge risk to evoke the universe into being. It means that God doesn't always get what God wants. The free will that characterizes the universe means that God offers us the best options, the best choices to make, but that doesn't always mean that we comply. That was the chance that God took for evoking the universe into evolutionary, creative being. God's love for the universe was so strong that he/she was willing to take that chance. And that, to me, is a wonderful thought.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Well, see Mystical and One, I actually think the witness of the church is all really true. It's not a matter of fear for me at all.

    There are no easy answers to this whole matter of evil and suffering, for sure. For myself, I've seen God's love in the face of Jesus Christ, and I know that I can trust Him even through the worse circumstances.

    But, you've both given all this alot of thought too, and have a very different paradigm. But, hey, as long as you don't have a spiritual home right now, I think you might as well hang out with the Christians.

    Think of all the interesting and challenging discussions you can have, and even fun ruffling the feathers of the fundamentalists. ;)

    Rev. Shuck can give plenty of pointers, here. He's a real expert. (teasing) Seriously, you are more than welcome.

    God bless!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Grace,

    They are hanging out with Christians!

    BTW, if fundamentalists don't want their feathers ruffled they don't have to read this blog! : )

    Glad you are here, although I do find it curious that you are concerned that folks seem to have the right beliefs or that they find a spiritual home.

    My hunch is that if they want to, they will.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I meant in the sense of finding a church home, a congregation, John.

    I'm concerned for people to come to Christ, to trust Him. It's a natural for me as breathing. It's more than just having the right beliefs, that's for sure. Although I think that no one can come to Jesus, trust Him, without understanding his/her need, of seeing the truth of the gospel. So, IMO, there's a sense that beliefs do play a real part in a relationship with Christ.

    Although, it's true that only God's spirit can open someone's heart and mind to the "good news."
    We can share, but it's ultimately all up to God. Lutherans feel that even faith is a gift. It's not so much that we can accept Christ, He accepts us!!

    Do you see what I mean? Thanks so much for making me welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Unfortunately, Grace, the one thing you haven't learned how to do is respect other people's spiritual choices when they aren't the same as yours. For you, it is all about proselytizing people to have your own religion, because no one else's religion is acceptable.

    Trust me, I know all about that point of view. I grew up in in. I would no more go back to your way of thinking than I would--well, to reuse an example from an earlier discussion--go back to believing in Santa Claus. It's something you just don't get.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I"m sorry that you're feeling disrespected, Mystical.

    I'm able to care about, and respect people, but, it's true, I can't always affirm their choices, or feel that it doesn't matter one way or the other.

    I truly do not think that all spiritual paths are equally valid, and true. It would be unloving, and dishonest for me to pretend to feel otherwise.

    Although, I definitely would not want to force myself or the Christian faith on anyone. As I've shared, I feel it really is all in God's hand.

    Maybe we need to agree to disagree, Mystical, and let go of our converation. Again, I"m sorry if you're feeling offended.

    ReplyDelete
  31. **Although I think that no one can come to Jesus, trust Him, without understanding his/her need, of seeing the truth of the gospel. **

    I could be misinterpreting, but I'm assuming that this is referring to those who don't accept are going to hell? I tend to see that belief associated with the idea that everyone "needs" Jesus.

    However, you would only have this sort of "need" if there's an afterlife. And I find that incredibly unjust to create people knowing full well that without the right choice, they will suffer for eternity. This "need" is only in place if people exist for an eternity, and if there is something wrong with them. But then we are created with something wrong with us through no fault of our own. We are created to exist eternally through no fault of our own. We are created, period, through no fault of our own.

    Why can't the choice simply be to not exist for eternity? This life, and then nothing?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh One,

    My husband and I have these kind of discussions all the time.He's more of an universalist kind of persuasion, and feels that eventually all will be "saved."

    I think it is in God's hand. Although, it seems to me that part of His love, is that no one is going to be forced into the kingdom. We can reject Him, and go our own way. But, if there's also part of us that lives forever, then how can we cease to exist?

    My whole focus in wanting to see people come to Christ is more to experience God's love, hope, and purpose in this life, though. And, to work along with Him for God's kingdom.

    But, I'm sure in the face of death, having a peace, the hope of the resurrection is also awesome beyond words, One.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I don't have a problem with anyone sharing their own faith and explaining how and why it has brought them closer to God. The best way to achieve interfaith dialogue is for people of all faiths to do just that--respectfully say how their religion has brought them comfort, how it has transformed them, and how it is connected them with something Greater than themselves.

    The key word there is "respectfully". When you proselytize, when you share your faith from a one-sided perspective, when "sharing" your faith consists of trying to convert others to your way of thinking because you think their religion is inadequate or inferior, when you deny the legitimacy of others' spiritual existence--then you are not really "sharing" at all.

    It is one thing to say, "this is what works for me." It is another thing altogether to say, "this is what works for me, and I know better than you do what works for you." The first is respectful; the second is obnoxious and arrogant.

    The world has suffered enough from the "my religion is better than yours" mentality. It is time for the religions of the world to move beyond this kind of thinking once and for all.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Mystical,

    Do you think part of our difference may be that we have differing paradigms relating to the nature of truth, itself??

    ReplyDelete
  35. **We can reject Him, and go our own way.**

    I think it's a lot more difficult to reject Him than you seem to be saying. If one rejects God, one has to embrace darkness, hate compassion, peace, love, justice and all sorts of things. If you feed the poor, if you seek justice, if you love your neighbor, then you are loving God.

    ** But, if there's also part of us that lives forever, then how can we cease to exist?**
    Why can't we cease to exist? Early Hebrews didn't have a belief that the soul lived past the body. The two were united, hence Adam becoming a living soul after he took his first breath. Part of that "soul" included the body. Death was the end of both soul and body then. Hence the focus on the tree of life, and living forever.

    **to Christ is more to experience God's love, hope, and purpose in this life, though. And, to work along with Him for God's kingdom.**

    But what you are essentially doing here is making a judgement call on the lives of non-Christians. Though you don't have their experiences, because they don't believe as you do, you are saying that they don't experience that love or hope, and don't work with God for God's kingdom. I think that's what Mystical is reacting to, because it is saying that you know what's best for everyone, regardless of knowing their experiences, or how they relate to God.

    ReplyDelete
  36. One,

    I think it's possible, though, to reject the God who's really there, by willfully and knowingly rejecting the work of the cross of Christ.

    But, I also feel that God comes to everyone who is truly open to Him, and seeking to know "truth."

    I do think that all truth is God's truth, and that every faith and philosophy out there contains some elements of that. We certainly can find common ground. For instance, I can appreciate very much the emphasis the pagans place in respecting and caring for the natural world.

    And, I don't think that humanly speaking, folks who aren't Christians can't do anything good or positive, for sure.

    But, One, the bottom line for me is that I truly believe that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever trusts in Him.." Jn. 3:16.
    You know the rest.

    For me, the "good news" is there for everyone. And, I don't feel that practices or belief systems which may contradict this gospel can all be equally true. (I'm not so much interested in what seems to work for me in the short term, but in what is true.)

    From my perspective, it doesn't seem disrespectful to assert this, just being honest.

    You know, One, on a deeper level, I think it's impossible for any of us to be totally open and unbiased. We are all going to be shaped by some paradigm.

    If you accept the paradigm that truth is pluriform, well then to say that Jesus is the way for everyone, is going to automatically seem narrow and judgemental. But, this itself reflects a bias and a kind of judgement.

    And, does it show openness and respect to say that the belief of Christians is like nothing more than believing in Santa Claus, and reflects the intellect of a five year old?

    Still, from my perspective, I know that Mystical is being honest about her perception, and I don't fault her for it.

    Can you see any of my concerns, though?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I think that's what Mystical is reacting to, because it is saying that you know what's best for everyone, regardless of knowing their experiences, or how they relate to God.

    That is exactly what I am saying.

    Grace claims that all she cares about is the "truth". And yet she ignores the truth that people with theologies other than her own relate are spiritually enhanced by their faith, that they relate to God through their faith. The evidence from millions of other people in the world is itself an indicator of truth; but she chooses to ignore this evidence because it doesn't fit her dogma, which she calls the "truth".

    Those who are so fixated on the superiority of their own religion always seem to think they know better than other people do the value that they get from their faith. This is arrogance. And trying to wrap that in sweetness and light doesn't make it any less so.

    And as much as I can't understand why others believe in miracles, I don't for one second think that people who do believe in miracles are not good people or that they don't connect to God through their faith. My disagreement with them over theology doesn't give me the right to judge their relationship with the Divine.

    I will also point out that I didn't say that "Christians have the intellect of five-year-olds." First of all, not all Christians believe in miracles; second, a lot of non-Christians also believe in miracles; and third, if others have what I consider to be a child-like naiveté on one specific theological point (i.e., miracles), that does not mean that I think that they have a five-year-old intellect. I am probably naive in my own ways on various subjects myself. In reality, I'll take a person who believes in miracles but who otherwise has the spiritual maturity to respect other people's right to pursue their own theological path, then someone who doesn't believe in miracles and who thinks that any theological position but their own denies them access to the Transcendent. It is not the intellect, but the tribalism that lies behind the belief that one's own religion is the only way to God, that is the real hallmark of child-like thinking. That isn't intellectual immaturity, but rather spiritual immaturity. I can handle different theological points of view, but tribalism and arrogance is another thing altogether.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Grace,

    **I think it's possible, though, to reject the God who's really there, by willfully and knowingly rejecting the work of the cross of Christ.**

    Then what it really comes down to is right beliefs get you in, wrong beliefs get you condemned. It doesn't matter who I am, what my experiences are, I am not ending up in a good place in the afterlife, if there is one. If someone has faith in love, pursues justice, humbles him/herself and so forth, they have God. If they dwell in love, they dwell in God. If they reject the cross and yet visited someone in prison, then according to the NT, they visited Jesus. If they renounce wordly powers and empires, then they are doing what Paul advocates in saying that Jesus is Lord -- for that means that Caeser/the world is not Lord. If they repent of wrong behavior, and desire to do good, then in an overarching theme, they are pursuing God.

    As for me, I'm not sure we can say one can willfully and knowingly reject a truth like that and thus choose a life of seperation from all good, and still be in control of one's sanity. If someone tried to kill himself, we'd say the person wasn't making a free choice, but was under control of depression. If someone willingly and knowingly places their hand on a hot stove and leaves it there, we'd say there was something wrong with that person. Same with those who torture. I don't see why the same principle can't be applied to something on the scale of God.

    **But, One, the bottom line for me is that I truly believe that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever trusts in Him.." Jn. 3:16**

    But what if that's expanded, beyond just an image or doctrines about Jesus? What if it's expanded to trusting in life, or that truth wins out? What if it's expanded to trusting in love?

    However, based on this verse, if taking in literal format only, then those who don't trust have an end: they don't have eternal life, and thus die and are no more.

    **is going to automatically seem narrow and judgemental. But, this itself reflects a bias and a kind of judgement.**

    The difference is, I am not telling you that you must interact with God as I do for it to be valid, or that you haven't encountered God in your life. I'm not saying you won't go to heaven when you die. I'm not using my experiences to interpret your relationship with God. By saying that I need the Jesus of your belief system in order to access God is making a judgement call on my life, and my encounters, and telling me that you know my encounters with God better than I do. It has to do with I don't feel that you are listening to what I say about my life, but are using your interpretation of a book to tell me about my life. I realize this is blunt, and I apologize if it's overly harsh. I'm not sure if there's any way out of this one, or if would just be best to drop the topic after this.

    As it is, it's not biased to call a bias "bias." (I'm not saying that you're biased here). If I protest racism, that doesn't make me intolerant. And I'm not comparing what you're doing to racism, or saying that you're persecuting the lot of us. I'm not trying to say that you're a raging Bible-Thumper here to browbeat us all into your faith. Despite that we pretty much have gotten into a debate with all of our comments, I have found you gracious and keeping a civil tone. That doesn't always occur. :)

    **And, does it show openness and respect to say that the belief of Christians is like nothing more than believing in Santa Claus, and reflects the intellect of a five year old?**

    The point Mystical was trying to make there was about standards, overall. If I tell you that my neighbor resurrected from the dead yesterday, you're going to disbelieve me, and you're going to want proof. Or, to go back to the Santa Claus idea, if I say he'll land on my rooftop, you'll want proof. Or possibly tell me to go on medication. ;) Yet the Bible is full of supernatural events that would not be accepted under any other circumstance. The reason why they are accepted, to Mystical, comes down to the fact that they are in the Bible, and not any other factor. If half of those same events were in the Qur'an, or the contradictions were in the Qur'an, I think that many Christians would use that as a reason as to why it were false. They'd want proof other than the fact that a book says so. Yet the suspension of disbelief is much lower when it comes to a person's religion. The action or claim itself is not evaluated on its own merits, but whether it's contained in a tradition or a holy book. The standard to determine the validity becomes relative.

    As it is, I don't think every belief about God is valid and equally true. But many religions hold to the idea that God is love, or loves justice. Those are equally true. For some, that love is demonstrated in Jesus. For others, it's not.

    Your concern is that without Christ, we will not fully have God in our lives, or the hope and peace that you have. Your concern could also involve the afterlife, and where we might end up, without this belief in Christ. You truly do think our lives would be better/more expanded with this belief, and you would do us a disservce by not advocating this.

    ReplyDelete
  39. One,

    I guess we are in a conundrum with each other. Our discussion is kinda turning into a debate. :)

    What to do? I don't want this to turn into the battle of the Bible verses. (laughing)

    But, don't worry about sounding blunt. I can understand. It's good that you're being honest, and trust me, I don't get offended at the drop of a hat.

    I do think the Christian faith is more than about having correct beliefs. Satan knows who Jesus is, too, afterall.

    I would say that it's about more of an openness to God, a willingness to go His way, rather than our own. I think this openness eventually will result in a trust in Christ. Beliefs, of course, do play a part in this. And, I certainly feel that a relationship with Jesus results in compassionate works, and a loving spirit.

    BTW, I appreciate your graciousness, and sincere sharing, too, (((One.)))

    But, I'm not persuaded that because someone is living a moral and ethical life, doing good, that this is proof positive that they "know the Lord," so to speak.

    One, I truly feel that we need to consider the overall teaching of Jesus, and the entire witness of the N.T.

    Right now I could pull out my Bible, and quote a pack of Scripture, and sayings from Jesus, but it wouldn't be something that you haven't already heard, I think.

    But, on another related topic, I don't feel that anyone is able to show the validity of their faith, even the existence of God in an empirical kind of way. We can't put God in a test tube. And, there's always going to be these unanswered questions.

    But, don't think for a minute that
    Christians haven't considered so many of the issues that you and Mystical raise. :) I feel that the Christian faith is more than a total existential leap into the dark.

    Personally, I think apart from the resurrection of Christ, it's pretty difficult to explain the tremendous growth or even the existence of the Christian church. Think about it. I mean what caused these folks scared witless, huddling together in some room, to suddenly be out there fiercely sharing about Jesus with everyone, at risk to their lives.

    Something happened for sure. If that grave wasn't empty, well, would any sane and balanced person, give his/her life for something they knew was a total lie.

    Anti-supernatural bias aside, the Christian faith doesn't seem unreasonable to me, One. And, there was a time when I questioned, and struggled with all of it.

    I just can't buy into the idea, either, that there is this total dichotomy between the Jesus of history, and the Christ of faith. For one thing, I don't think there was even enough time for myth to develop.

    But, I know that you and Mystical feel differently, and I have to accept that for now, and commend all of us to the Lord.

    Again, One, I want you to know that I appreciate all of your sharing. In real life, I'm sure we would be friends. :)

    Let's let this go for now, but maybe we'll share again together. I"ll vist Shuck and Jive sometimes.

    Thanks to you, too, John, for letting us all talk.

    God's peace.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thanks all, particularly One, Grace and Seeker for the conversation. Good stuff. This is what this blog is about.

    Glad you are here, Grace...

    I am glad you are all here!

    C'mon...group hug

    ReplyDelete
  41. Grace,

    There were a few points in your last response that I wanted to touch upon.

    **I do think the Christian faith is more than about having correct beliefs. Satan knows who Jesus is, too, afterall.**

    I'm not sure we can use Satan as a comparison to humanity, given that Satan is in a different category, with the whole enemy of God. I haven't run across one non-Christian who says, "I know the correct information about Jesus" and yet continues to be a non-Christian.

    **I would say that it's about more of an openness to God, a willingness to go His way, rather than our own.**

    I think this is a false dictomomy (sp?) Why can't our way mirror God's way? In Christianity, I sometimes get the impression that anything good is never the person's way, but God's way. The only time your way comes into play is in selfishness. For instance, I want world peace. Given the nature of the NT, I'm assuming that's what God's aiming for in the end, too. An elimination of evil.

    As it is, if we're going for a "selfish way" concept, say we have a person who really wants to commit violence against someone who has wronged them. Yet this person refrains from following the desire, and chooses the path of not hitting the person. That's a willingness to go a way other than a selfish one.

    **But, I'm not persuaded that because someone is living a moral and ethical life, doing good, that this is proof positive that they "know the Lord," so to speak.**

    But it's supposed to be. If we can look at someone and know, by their actions, that they do not have God in their lives, why can't that be reversed? It should work both ways. We are supposed to know someone by their fruits, and where their allegience is by their fruits. While Paul does preach upon grace, he also mentions that people are judged by actions -- the fruits one produces. As it is, when we evaluate the characteristics of someone, we do so based on actions. Someone can say s/he is a good person as much as they want -- we would use the person's actions to determine that.

    **One, I truly feel that we need to consider the overall teaching of Jesus, and the entire witness of the N.T.**

    I would say we would more need to consider the words that came from Jesus, and then use the letters to supplement that. I don't feel everything in the NT has equal weight.

    **Personally, I think apart from the resurrection of Christ, it's pretty difficult to explain the tremendous growth or even the existence of the Christian church.**

    It is going to depend upon how one defines resurrection, though. There are verses in Paul's letters which contrast a natural body verses a spiritual body. For some, the resurrection simply means that death is not victorious. You don't need a physical body to demonstrate that.

    **give his/her life for something they knew was a total lie.**

    This is what would need clarification, though: the only people who would know it's a total lie are those who actually were witnesses to a resurrection (however one defines that). That leaves us with the disciples, pretty much, that can be verified in more than one NT account. I am leaving out the 500, as they are only mentioned once, and it's almost a throwaway line. We don't hear those 500 speak for themselves, to suppliment what Paul says. So out of the disicples, how many do we know actually died for that lie? Not died according to tradition or apocryphal, but historically speaking.

    **Anti-supernatural bias aside, the Christian faith doesn't seem unreasonable to me, One.**

    And that's fine. What we were trying to point out is that many of the events in the Bible are the same events one finds in myths, fables and folklore. For instance, the Bible contains a talking donkey. If my friend tells me a story of a talking donkey, I know it's not literally true. Why? Because the donkey is talking. Yet I know many who would say that the talking donkey story is literally true, and did occur. They're not basing this on the merits of the story itself, but because the story is in the Bible. There's no one standard for evaluating the claims of the Bible in an empircal way, the way there is for the story my friend tells me.

    **For one thing, I don't think there was even enough time for myth to develop.**

    I do. If we go with the idea that Mark was written in 70 AD, and the extreme claims of Christianity itself, then it's enough time. I saw a study elsewhere about how the more extravegent the claim, the more the human memory becomes unreliable.

    John,

    **I am glad you are all here!

    C'mon...group hug**

    We would, but our Bibles are getting in the way. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  42. One,

    I wasn't thinking of just the synoptics, but also the letters of Paul written between 50-57AD which present a very exalted view of Christ. They actually predate the gospels.

    Some scholars feel that ancient creeds embedded in some of these epistles that show signs of Jewish -Christian origin probably come even from the 30's or 40's within twenty years of the crucifixion.

    Hey, Bibles might get in the way, but never, Jesus. :)

    ReplyDelete
  43. Grace,

    **I wasn't thinking of just the synoptics, but also the letters of Paul written between 50-57AD which present a very exalted view of Christ. They actually predate the gospels.**

    Ah. I wasn't counting those, because of the contrast between Paul's perception, and the synoptics. Paul focuses on a crucifixion and a resurrection (depending on how one defines a resurrection). Paul doesn't really mention Jesus' life, or miracles, or any of that. He very much focuses on the Logos element of Jesus, with huge mythical overtones. I tend to divide the two, because, as you say, the Christ in the letters is elevated, to the point where it's a different entity. However, if going based on the letters themselves, it already started out with huge mythical porportions. It's not that there wasn't enough time to develop a myth -- it had all those elements from the get-go.

    **Some scholars feel that ancient creeds embedded in some of these epistles that show signs of Jewish -Christian origin probably come even from the 30's or 40's within twenty years of the crucifixion.**

    I believe Phillippians 2: 1-11 is one of those. Not all of 1-11, but I'm not sure where the starting portion is.

    **Hey, Bibles might get in the way, but never, Jesus. :)**

    But then I can never say "My Bible can *totally* be up your Bible." ;)

    ReplyDelete
  44. One Small Step,

    If you take Paul's letters, and then Mark's Gospel, and then Matthew, and then Luke, you see a steady progression of increasingly mythological expansion. Paul in Galatians makes no reference whatsoever to Jesus's post-Easter existence involving any physical, bodily appearances. He equates his own mystical/visionary experience of the risen Jesus with the Easter experiences of the other apostles. He uses the same verb to describe every appearance in the list, which starts with Peter and continues to him. From this we conclude that Paul did not believe in any physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus, but instead believed that the apostles (and the 500) who preceded him had similar mystical or visionary experiences of the risen Christ as he did.

    Mark, the first Gospel, like Paul makes no reference to physical, bodily appearances either. His Gospel ends with the women fleeing an empty tomb.

    Then Matthew comes along--we're now talking something written a full half century after the supposed events it depicts--and brings in for the first time stories about physical, bodily appearances by Jesus in the resurrection. He has Jesus telling the disciples to go to Galilee, and that is where the story ends.

    With Luke, the change in the mythology involves Jesus hanging around in Jerusalem instead of Galilee.

    Thus we can see quite clearly the evolution of the mythologies surrounding Jesus's resurrection over time. At first, Jesus's resurrection was seen as his being taken into God's glory after his death, but there were no physical appearance stories. But the resurrection became increasingly embellished over time, as stories of Jesus's appearances started to appear in the Gospels written a half-century and longer after the death of Jesus. And the resurrection stories began to relocate from Galilee to Jerusalem. Given the important role that Jerusalem played as a center of Christianity (along with Antioch) until its destruction, perhaps this has something to do with its increasingly important role in the Easter mythologies (that's just speculation on my part.)

    Also, for anyone who wants to look at the way the Easter mythologies correlate with similar mythologies from that time period in history, I highly recommend the article "Brand X Easters" by Robert M. Price that appears in the current issue of "The Fourth R" magazine. The author of that article shows how the various elements of these mythologies correspond well to similar stories that were known in the ancient world. For example, Jesus's final words in Matthew before resemble the religious literature that depicts Romulus's last words before he ascends from the earth. Similar comparisons in ancient literature can be found in the story of Christ on the road to Emmaus, Luke's depiction of the ascension, and other aspects of the Easter stories.

    Personally, I believe that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was taken into God's glory very shortly after his death, and that he was exalted as part of that resurrection. If they had not believed in Jesus's exaltation, there would not have been any Christianity. But of course that is different than "resurrection" in the sense that most people think of today, where Jesus was walking down the road and showing his wounds to people and such. But in the sense of an exaltation after death, I think that a belief in a "resurrection" is very, very old. But the idea of a physical resurrection as historical events that could have been recorded by a camera had such a thing existed at the time, is a later embellishment, the first record of which came 50 years after Jesus died.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Friends,

    What about this Scripture in Mk. 14:62.

    Again, the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"

    I am, said Jesus. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

    Jesus sounds awfully exalted to me, here. :) Of course, I'm sure those fellows of the Jesus Seminar are totally conviced that the historical Jesus would never express such a concept concerning, Himself, no way!! This is surely a later insertion into the text by the church.

    Ok, I"m teasing, and twisting your tails abit, guys.
    But, seriously, I want to ask you a question, especially you, Mystical.

    Are you aware that there are scholars out there who really address many of these issues, and take a very different approach and point of view, that, say, many of the fellows of the Jesus Seminar?

    I'm thinking of people like the late Dr. Bruce Metzer from Princeton, and Dr. Wright (Oxford in England)

    What makes the difference, guys, do you think? There are equally intelligent, thinking and informed folks on either side of the theological fence.

    Why do some people accept the historic faith of the church, and are naturally drawn to the scholarship and evidence that would seem to support this witness and others not?

    And, what about you Mystical? Suppose I could address and refute every objection or point to the scholarship that could..Would you accept the witness of the Christian church, and come to Christ, Mystical, be found in Him? Or, would there always be barriers, other issues at hand?

    I have to be off the computer for abit, so I'll give everyone the last word, here, guys.

    God bless!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Mystical,

    **If you take Paul's letters, and then Mark's Gospel, and then Matthew, and then Luke, you see a steady progression of increasingly mythological expansion.**

    I think I'm looking at the myth aspect differenly than you are, and possibly with 21st century eyes. I see Paul as more mythical simply because of the spiritual aspect involved, and then the later Gospels humanizing this spiritual aspect.

    Grace,

    **Again, the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"

    I am, said Jesus. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

    Jesus sounds awfully exalted to me, here. :) **

    But this would tie into Mystical's proposal of an increasing mythological expansion. And it would be exalted there, whether actually said or not. Mark's Gospel is heavily focused on a second coming occuring soon. When combined with the Messianic claims of Jesus, why would Jesus be like everyone else?

    **Suppose I could address and refute every objection or point to the scholarship that could..Would you accept the witness of the Christian church, and come to Christ, Mystical, be found in Him? Or, would there always be barriers, other issues at hand?**

    I am aware of the scholarship on the other side. By Dr. Wright, I assume you mean NT Wright. I've read his work, and found some aspects convincing, and others not convincing. One thing I had difficulty in this work is his focus on the fact on what Paul meant in terms of a spiritual body. It ended up coming across as him saying, "Those words don't mean what they are saying, but mean something different." For every conservative scholar that you find who could refute, I could find a liberal scholar who could then refute that.

    Other scholars on a conservative side I don't find convincing because they seem to write to those who already believe, and thus "firming up" the faith. I'm sure the same could be said of liberal scholars, but people like Marcus Borg tend to be addressed to those who want to hold onto the Christian faith, and yet can no longer accept the Bible as literally true.

    But the conservative camp cannot adequatly refute my objections. I've looked. One well-known scholar, in discussing hell, said that why shouldn't God send people to hell who hate God? These people, of course, being those who believe wrong, essentially. It was a jarring comment, and pretty much made me dismiss most of what he would say. One, because for God to send those who hate Him to hell is going against everything Jesus taught, in revoking the "eye for an eye" mentality and saying that there is no limit on forgiveness, and one should always turn the other cheek. Two, those who do not follow this scholar's belief system do not hate God. Yet if he is writing everything from the perspective that they do, then I'm going to find his perspective tainted.

    ReplyDelete
  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Grace, when you use language like "Would you accept the witness of the Christian church, and come to Christ, Mystical, be found in Him?", you indicate that your agenda is less about having a serious and reasonable discussion than in proselytizing.

    And if your argument boils down to, "there are intelligent people who disagree with you," well, that is not an argument. The world is full of seemingly intelligent people with different opinions, and sometimes these people, despite their intelligence, can be idiots. Just look at Christopher Hitchens. The fact that people have different opinions is irrelevant; the question is whether their opinions have any credibility, whether their arguments have any merit.

    And for the record, I'm not sure what your quote from Mark has to do with. I was talking about the evolution of the ideas about the resurrection--from a belief that he was with God after he died ("declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead") to a later set of mythological stories about him walking around on the planet, showing his crucification scars, appearing behind walls, and ascending skyward towards a "heaven" that fit into the ancient understanding of a three-tiered cosmos.

    I was suggesting that it is this evolution of belief into the realm of the increasingly mythological that is available by studying the biblical writings in the order they were written.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I think I'm looking at the myth aspect differenly than you are, and possibly with 21st century eyes. I see Paul as more mythical simply because of the spiritual aspect involved, and then the later Gospels humanizing this spiritual aspect.

    I agree with you that there was a humanizing of the spiritual aspect. I was defining mythology more in terms of heroic stories with concrete characters.

    ReplyDelete
  50. here is my response to the miracle question, actually I guess it isn't my response but it is what I believe..... back to you tube...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfLI1l_Pda4

    ReplyDelete