On the Definition and Meaningfulness of Progressive Christianity

Deutsche Version: Über die Definition und Bedeutsamkeit vom progressiven Christentum 

Youtube version.

Here, I want to give my own thoughts about the definition of progressive Christianity, as I understand the term and apply it to myself.

Basically, and at the risk of oversimplifying, (most) evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God and the very foundation of Christianity.
Of course, there are differences in the way infallibility is understood, and some conceptions are much more sophisticated than others.
Yet, the large majority of evangelicals agree that whatever stands in the Bible must be devoutly believed in, even if this leads quite a few of them to conclude that genocide and the butchering of babies is sometimes okay, or that God predetermined many human beings to end up in hell where they’ll suffer eternally for sins he pre-ordained them to do.

But they generally beg the question: if we found out that the God of an inerrant Bible is not only not superior to our greatest, most beautiful ethical ideas, but infinitely inferior to them and (grating for the sake of the argument) that this being is real, why should we worship him? And why should we call him God anyway?

To my mind, both progressive and liberal Christianities begin with the realization that it is neither epistemologically nor morally permissible to believe everything standing in our favorite holy book without any kind of reality-check. Our faith should always welcome  facts from the external world and from our undeniably true moral intuitions to correct and possibly abandon our theological doctrines.
If we don’t, we cannot bring up a coherent answer to Sam Harris’s contention that religious people would systematically slit the throat of every girl with red hair if God said so in their sacred scriptures.

Liberals believe  that miracles are impossible (or at the very least extremely unlikely) and that we should interpret the resurrection as a psychological experience of the first disciples. Many go as far as saying that God cannot be personal (even as a distant landlord) and that he has to be some kind of energy or impersonal concept.

Unlike them, progressive Christians do believe in the reality of a supernatural world, or are at the very least open to it (like in my case).
But they don’t view the Christian faith as fixed, unchangeable, but as constantly evolving as new data come in to correct and improve our beliefs.
This raises an interesting question: if we’ve given up inerrancy, how can we make a difference between true and false beliefs about God?
While I cannot pretend to speak for every self-described progressive Christian, my response would be that:

1)      God has necessarily to be a perfect being

2)      Despite all their flaws, humans are quite able to recognize goodness and perfection (and that’s what makes us guilty, like Paul expressed it in Roman 2).

Now, I welcome all your thoughts to this subject, hopefully we’ll have an enjoyable conversation!

Please, remember you’re free and even encouraged to comment on every post at any time!

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

On the burden of proof of the atheist

Deutsche Version: von der Beweislast des Atheisten

Beweislast

Paul Copan has written a great article several years ago showing that both theists and atheists have a burden of proof regarding the truth of their claims:

http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201303/201303_026_Athiests.cfm

I’ve give additional reasons to think so on my blog under the category “Parsimony”
. https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/category/parsimony/

If you’re discussing with an atheist friend, don’t forget that aspect.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

 

Salvation by love

Deutsche Version.      

       Salvation by love

NDE

The foundation of my theology is that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God, that He has to be far better than the holiest person on earth.
While looking at all religions, it seems likely to me that God’s revelation to man was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us to even love our worst enemies.
Whilst all Christians have always believed that God’s grace is necessary for salvation, Roman Catholics believe that additional good works are necessary, as written in the book of James, whilst Protestants largely ignore the book of James and focus on Paul who allegedly taught one is saved by pure grace.
Among Protestants, Arminians teach that one must make the free choice to accept this grace whereas Calvinist teach that God forces some people to accept His grace whereas the others are still heading to hell.
My own thoughts based on the perfection of God have led me to the following reasoning:

1) God wants every human to enjoy an everlasting relationship with him
2) Humans commit many sins which are hurting God and which He cannot merely forget
3) Thus, God is going to ultimately forgive every sin to everyone for it is Love which defines His being
4) God will propose to everybody to spend eternity with Him

Does that mean that everyone will be in Heaven? Probably not, because at least some humans, like many Pharisees described in the Gospels, are going to reject the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
And God will respect their free will. And if there is absolutely no hope of redemption for them, they will eventually cease to exist.

I personally know that I will be in Heaven because God loves me, I love Him and His love is far greater than all my transgressions. And I have the genuine desire to get closer to this ultimate Love by following Jesus Christ who defeated death and sin at the cross and the empty tomb.

Wüstenland
Wüstenland

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

 

The trilemna of C.S. Lewis

Deutsche Version: das Trilemma von C.S. Lewis

Image

C.S Lewis was undoubtedly the greatest Christian apologist of the past century. Tough some of his points are certainly overstated, I do believe it is only fair to say he defended a rational form of Christianity which neglects neither the intellect nor the emotions.

One of his most famous arguments was the so-called trilemna concerning the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Provided the New Testament reports about Jesus’s claims of being God are reliable, it is irrational to just consider Jesus as a wise teacher among many others. No, according to what he said about himself, he could only be the Lord of all things, a liar or a lunatic (LLL).

Whilst some enemies of the Christian faith have no problem with believing one of two last options, most skeptics have tried to dismiss the whole argument as being a false trilemna: Jesus might very well have been a great man who was just wrong with respect to his divinity.

While this response did have some intuitive appeal to me, I no longer believe it is valid. At the time of Jesus, Jews viewed God as the creator of heaven and earth who is radically different from and superior to the whole creation. After a long and progressive evolution during the time of the Old Testament, they finally saw God as the supreme being responsible for all the wonderful features of nature they could observe.

It is true that during the course of history, quite a few religious great men were (morally) exceptional individuals, even if they believed they were equipped with supernatural powers which were demonstrably absent, and this by no mean involves they were insane or even dishonest.

But this is a far cry from claiming to be the being responsible for the existence of everything.

Imagine that over the coming weeks you were to realize you’re beginning to take more and more seriously the idea you are the creator of the entire reality, which is nevertheless real and not a dream.

Would it not be a safe reaction to immediately go to the psychiatric unit of the next hospital?

Image

So, I believe that in spite of all the challenges formulated since Lewis brought up this idea, there has been no convincing answer.

Of course, all of this relies on the historicity of the divine claims of Jesus. In future posts, I’ll go into the question as to whether one can or even should believe this or not.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

On the Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Deutsche Version: Von der Sündigkeit der Homosexualität.

Image

I have a very simple reasoning on that topic.

  1. As a morally perfect being, God did not make man for the law but the law for man
  2. Hence there is no arbitrary command.
  1. A committed lifelong homosexual relationship is neither harmful for the individual nor for society
  2. Homosexuals who have to constantly repress their basic sexual feelings and regard them as sinful are suffering a horrific ordeal.
  3. God would not issue a command that causes unnecessary suffering and does not serve anyone.
  4. Thus, lifelong gay marriage should be recognised by the Church as something not evil but normal

Of course, one of the implication might be to give up Biblical inerrancy.

But if someone disagrees with the conclusion, I’d be happy to know where he or she thinks I’m wrong.

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Advice of a Former Christian to Religious Apologists

Deutsche Version

I’ve read a great post of former Christian apologist John Loftus (DebunkingChristianity) who gives advice to current Christian apologists.

I was stunned to realize I agree with most things he has written.


Like Thom Stark, I was disgusted by the firing of Chris. Rollston due to his intellectual honesty and his willingness to expose bad things people from the past have attributed to God. I have myself been banned from quite a few conservative forums for my challenge against certain dogma, but this is evidently nothing in comparison to the ordeal professor Rollston underwent.

Here is the key point of John’s recommendations:


 “The ninth thing you must do is to become educated rather than indoctrinated.”

Image

This is a wonderful sentence and I applaud John for leaving open the possibility that there might be Christian apologists out there who are really honest and educate themselves.

I hope he would agree Randal Rauser is a good example.

Yet, like many other things he rightly says about biases of all kinds, this sort of cuts both ways. Everyone with a worldview and an ideology is prone to delude herself. This is true for capitalists, socialists, marxists, post-modernists, transhumanists, Muslims, Christians and anti-theists alike. Until now, I haven’t found good evidence that the BEST theist intellectuals are more biased and deluded than the BEST atheistic intellectuals.

John is certainly right there is generally no come-back for a liberal who was previously a fundamentalist. However there are many cases of liberals who become fundamentalists in their later life.

Bin Laden is certainly the most ugly one. He was (among others) convinced by some books that he had to take the Koran seriously because it allegedly predicted scientific results, in the same way people converts to Evangelicalism after having read a book „proving“ that evolution is wrong.

Then get a real education if you want to be an apologist. Skip on by any evangelical apologetics program where the professors are required to sign a doctrinal statement. Attend a secular university instead. Then see what happens. If your faith is strengthened then you will be a better apologist. If it causes you to become a liberal or non-believer then follow the evidence where it leads.

Along the way do two things. First, read books and attend lectures that are outside the box of your comfort zone, books like these for starters. „

To that, I can only loudly answer “Amen“!

One of my own conclusions of such a process is that in many domains and cases the evidence is much more ambiguous than what both believers and deniers think it to be.

Finally, I would add one personal recommendation for every evangelical apologist believing in Biblical inerrancy: start reading many OTHER ancient religious books, from the near East, but also from many times and places.

Image
Consider their passion for their gods, the despair they experienced, the good things they wrote as well as the ugly stuff they attributed to their deities.

Image

Compare this with the Bible and draw your own conclusion concerning its alleged uniqueness, inspiration and lack of errors.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

 

On the definition of Socialism

Deutsche Version: Von der Definition des Sozialismus

 

Image

In the German-speaking and English-speaking worlds, Socialism has largely a bad press. It is all too often associated with the totalitarian countries of the former Soviet Union and the omnipresence of the state in every area of life.

But in France, Socialism has historically mainly meant the belief that the state ought to intervene as soon as the well-being of workers and employees is threatened by the unlimited free-market competition going on. It has nothing against free-market competition in and of itself, so long as the quality of life of people is not menaced.

There is of course also a striving towards social justice, in that taxes should take into account the personal wealth.

A similar feeling seems to have been present in the Early Church among the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth after his resurrection:

All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
(Acts 2:44-45)

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of , Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
(Acts 4:34-37)

Image

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

William Lane Craig and Divine Genocides

Image

William Lane Craig is arguably the most popular defender of the Evangelical faith out there. Whilst he certainly tends to overstate his case about the resurrection of Christ, he is far more rational and rigorous in his approach than folks like McDowell (or your local pastor or evangelist for that matter).

At the end of the day, I don’t believe that his attempts to prove God’s existence through the cosmological argument are in any way, shape or form more fallacious than atheistic attempts to show that everything has to be as simple as possible.

I do believe, however, that he is completely misguided in his willingness to stick to the dogma of Biblical inerrancy at all costs.

Defense of atrocities attributed to God

One of the most disgusting consequence is undoubtedly his endorsement of Biblical genocides, or should I say, genocidal myths.

According to the beliefs of Dr. Craig, those events undoubtedly occurred as reported in the pages of his inerrant book, whereby God allegedly ordered soldiers to kill babies and pregnant women alike.
Regardless of their historicity, the tales have been rightly called terror texts due to the theology they convey.

 Image

Unlike many fundamentalists, he recognizes to his credit it is possible to be a Jew or a Christian while rejecting them:

First, let me commend you for seeing that this issue is an in-house debate among Jews and Christians. If it is the case that God could not have issued the commands in question, that goes no distance toward proving atheism or undermining the moral argument for God; it at most implies a liberal doctrine of biblical inspiration, such that inspiration does not imply inerrancy.“

But I was really stunned by his first sentence:

It’s wonderful to read a rational response to my defense of the historicity of the conquest narratives, Daniel! The typical response has been just heated emotional denunciations with no rational interaction with the moral theory I defended in QoWs”

It demands a huge effort for me to believe that Craig is not aware of the numerous blog posts Randal Rauser spent dealing with his lame attempts to whitewash such horrors. He clearly expressed his feelings, but does Craig really expect someone to callously think about atrocities attributed to the Supreme Being of all universes?

He further said:

But it’s worth remembering that the reason the conquest narratives are so puzzling is that God’s character in the Old Testament is so morally elevated that it’s hard to understand how He could issue such commands, especially after the story of Abraham’s bargaining with God over Sodom and Gomorrah. He is not the villain that the new atheists make Him out to be.“

This statement is certainly hugely debatable, but I can agree with it in so far that by and large the writers of the OT had more elevated human thoughts about God than those expressed in the genocidal passages.


“2. I’m very gratified that you agree with me on my Divine Command Theory of ethics. I think this goes a very long way toward resolving the problem. God does nothing morally wrong in issuing these commands. Rather the whole question devolves, as you note, to this: has God failed to act in accordance with His perfect moral character? The task of the biblical believer is now to show that in issuing these commands God does nothing out of character with a perfectly just and loving being.“

I am unwilling to argue about the validity of DCT here and am going to accept this for the sake of the discussion, provided the character of a perfectly just and loving being can be recognized by our moral intuitions, what Calvinists (for instance) usually deny.

Alleged wickedness of the Canaanites.

You apparently agree with me that God’s judgment of the Canaanite adults is consistent with God’s being perfectly just and loving, given how unspeakably debased these people were..“

Well I certainly cannot agree with this anymore than with the proposition that the entire human race except Noah and his family was literally rife for utter destruction by the flood.

This stems from the simple empirical fact that even in the most wicked cultures, you’re always going to find a substantial set of (relatively) virtuous individuals not deserving such a judgment. And the whole concept that the place of one’s birth is going to have a huge impact on one’s ethical behavior certainly mitigates one’s personal responsibility.

Is taking their lives consistent with the character of a perfectly just and loving being? Well, why not? My claim is that in taking these children home early, God does them no wrong. Indeed, He may actually prevent their eternal damnation by snatching them out of a depraved Canaanite culture.“

WLC looks completely confused here and I hardly know where to begin with. If he agrees that the genocide of the Jews or the Armenians was an atrocity for God, then it makes no sense He would commend such a horror given the wrong message it would send. The expression „taking them home“ sounds extremely cynical (to say the least) in such a context, if one tries imagining a soldier cutting the throat of the toddler of a terrified housewife.

But this passage made me realize that divine genocide isn’t the weakest point of Professor Craig’s theology.

No, the hugest problem is certainly his belief in conscious eternal punishment. If he believes that babies and toddlers automatically escape this fate by dying and that we can be glad about the Canaanite ones leaving this earthly life in this way, then it seems inevitable we should also praise God for every abortion.

More than that, conservative Christian parents believing that most humans end up in hell would express their love for their children in the most perfect way by practicing infanticide.

But your question is easy to answer. The reason we should withhold such a reward is that God has issued a command “Thou shalt not kill,” so that we have a moral prohibition against killing the innocent. We have no right to play God; it is He and He alone who has the prerogative to give and take life. Yes, the death of a child brings great good to that child. That’s why we are comforted at funerals of children. But there’s nothing in my moral theory that implies that we should bring about this great good (I’m not a utilitarian!). In fact, my moral theory entails that we have a moral duty not to take the life of a child or of any innocent person. God has forbidden us doing so, and anyone who presumes to do so commits a great evil. This is right in line with the teaching of the New Testament, as well as the Old.„

The problem is that God gives us strong commands against inflicting a temporary pain to our fellow human beings while he’s going to allow them being tortured forever.

Progressive Christian perspective: faith forward.

To conclude, let me give my take on the Biblical terror texts. I view the things contained within the Biblical Canon in the same way I see religious texts outside the Canon, that is to say as the fallible description of human thoughts and experiences with God. In the same way people can get facts about mathematics, logic, and physics wrong, they can get God wrong, sometimes in quite a guilty and sinful way.

Our reflection about God shouldn’t start from any allegedly inspired holy scripture, but from the concept He has to be perfect in order for Him to be God, that is infinitely better than any one of us can dream to be. From this basis, we can evaluate if the religious thoughts and experiences of anyone are genuine, illusory, or both at the same time.

Certainly, developing a coherent theology on this foundation cannot be achieved with some lines of a blog entry.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

The Greatness of the Apostle Paul

Deutsche Version: die Größe des Apostels Paulus.

Medieval picture of the Apostle Paul represented with brown hairs and a beard.
The apostle Paul, preacher of the Good News to the Heathens.

Among people critical of Christianity, the apostle Paul has a pretty bad press. Whilst quite a few of them recognize that Jesus had an exceptionally high ethic (at least for his time), Paul is generally regarded as a villain having sort of corrupted the message of his master. 

While I certainly think that Paul had several culturally conditioned false beliefs (about women and homosexuals for instance), I do believe he was a man full of an incredible love and altruism.

There is no better place than the beginning of Roman 9 to notice that:

 

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. „

 

For the sake of his fellows Jews, Paul was ready to lay down his life not only in this world but also forever. To realize the extent of his altruistic love, just ask yourself what it would feel like for you to give up eternal life for the benefits of other people.

 

But this passage is also very challenging for our understanding of the atonement of Christ. For the sacrifice Paul intended seems much greater than the ordeal Jesus was willing to undergo before being raised from the dead.

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Does the absence of evidence mean evidence of absence?

Deutsche Version: Ist das Fehlen von Beweisen der Beweis des Fehlens?

Let us consider the problem of the existence of God.

There are basically three possibilities which might be nuanced by probabilities:

  1. I know God exists (Theism)
  2. I know God does not exist (Atheism)
  3. I don’t know if God exists or not (Agnosticism)

For many people today, if we have neither evidence for nor against God’s existence, we should not only reject 1), but also 3) and be atheists.

Quite a few folks would justify that by saying that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence (a principle which will be referred to as PA).

Flying spaghetti monsters and invisible pink unicorns

They often illustrate that by quoting the infamous pink invisible unicorn (which might be lying on the ground besides you!)

Image

Although it is very seldom well articulated, the reasoning seems to look as follows:

  1. it is certain that the pink invisible unicorn doesn’t exist
  2. if it is certain, it has to have a justification
  3. PA is the only possible justification
  4. therefore PA must be true.

This is the only way I can make sense of the manner Skeptics use such kinds of prowling monsters in public debates.

The first thing which strikes me is that it is completely absurd and hopelessly circular.

We don’t know if PA is true and want to prove it. Now we want to base our proof of PA on our certainty that there is no pink invisible unicorn. But we can only know there is no such beast if PA is true!

But PA faces a far more serious problem: in many situations it leads to quite absurd results…

Let us consider for example that I’ve invented a time-travel machine and fly with it to the ancient Greece.

I meet there an Epicurean philosopher who fervently believes in PA. During the course of our discussion, I explain to him in great details how a kangaroo looks like.

Image

Amused, he glances at me and tells me: “since I have no evidence such a creature exists, I can be almost certain it is not real.“

Would he be justified to hold this belief?

Back to the present time: I have no evidence there is a bear-like intelligent being scratching his head at the boundary of the milky way, can I conclude there is no such being?

The absence of evidence is only evidence of absence if one would expect such evidence to be out there.

But once we’ve rejected PA, what are we to do with our best invisible friend and her single pink horn?

Image

The ground for our disbelief shouldn’t be PA, but the self-contradictory nature of the proposition.

I’m completely open to the existence of a pink unicorn somewhere in the multiverse, or of a creature invisible for our eyes, but not of a being having both features.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)