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!

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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The trilemna of C.S. Lewis

Deutsche Version: das Trilemma von C.S. Lewis

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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?

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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.

 

 

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On the Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Deutsche Version: Von der Sündigkeit der Homosexualität.

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I have a very simple reasoning on that topic.

  1. 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. thus, lifelong gay marriage should be recognized 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.

 

 

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

 

 

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On the definition of Socialism

Deutsche Version: Von der Definition des Sozialismus

 

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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)

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