Solo Scriptura and the unique inspiration of the Protestant Canon

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser wrote a series of posts defending the Bible against an anti-theist advocating its burning.

 

Here is what he wrote about challenges formulated by nice atheistic philosopher Jason Thibodeau:

“Perhaps most revealing are Jason Thibodeau‘s comments for they reveal a person who seems to be fundamentally confused on the parameters of the discussion. Jason quotes me:

“that is a good illustration of Jason’s overall objection to the Bible. He starts out with bold, magisterial claims about what any author or editor would or would not do as alleged grounds to reject the Bible. “

And then he retorts:

“And what does Randal’s argument for the magisterial claim that the Bible is sacred literature consist of? I have no idea, he has never provided one.”

The problem here is that I never set out to provide an evidential argument that the Bible is in some sense revelation (or as Thibodeau puts it, “sacred literature”). Rather, from the beginning I have simply been rebutting putative defeaters to the Bible’s being in some sense revelation. Jason’s apparent complaint that I have failed to meet a demand I never set out to meet in the first place appears to be either a desperate attempt to redraw the parameters of the debate based on his failed arguments or a more basic confusion about what was being debated in the first place.

Jason’s confusion deepens in an additional comment. He starts off quoting me:

“At this point the weight of Jason’s rebuttal consists of his observation that he finds it difficult to believe Jones would do this. That’s it. But that’s not a serious rebuttal. It is simply a statement of personal incredulity.”

And then he wryly comments “Pot, meet kettle” and quotes my own statement of “personal incredulity”:

“This claim about the moral obligation of the author or editor strikes me as completely ridiculous.”

Yes, Jason thinks he’s being clever here. But in fact he is simply placing his own confusion into broader relief. You see, as I have noted our entire discussion is predicated on Jason’s alleged ability to provide defeaters that should rationally persuade Christians that the Bible cannot be in some sense revelation. That’s what he aims to do with J-MAP. Thus the Christian believes p and Jason is aiming to show that the Christian ought not believe p. The way one does this is by presenting a logically valid argument with plausible premises. Thus, the fact that Jason’s premises rest on nothing more than his own personal incredulity is devastating for the success of his argument. For Jason to reply “Pot, meet kettle” suggests that he doesn’t even understand he has shouldered a burden of proof with J-MAP and has utterly failed to meet that burden of proof.”

 

And here is my response.

 

Hello Randal.

I think you make some good points, such as asking what Jason means by “sacred scripture”.

However I was truly put off by your dismissive and haughty tone.

Jason is not being absurd or confused at all and most people who don’t share your Evangelical convictions are much more inclined towards his side rather yours.
He is a very kind, respectful and humble person and clearly deserves our own respect in return.
You generally produce writings of excellent quality so that it is a true pity you resorted to such a language.

I personally find it problematic to believe that God was directly responsible  for the Protestant Canon as His unique revelation while desiring the presence of erroneous terror texts whose most likely and straightforward interpretation is that He directly commanded atrocities.

I take a view similar to that of Thom Stark and believe that God did not  cause  the formation of the current Canon but rather appropriates it in the same way He appropriates writings of C.S. Lewis despite his mistakes and those of Martin Luther in spite of his egregious statements about the Jews.

I know that this must seem utterly repugnant for every kind of Evangelical. But since the Protestant Canon cannot set his unique authority by itself, an Evangelical could only appeal to the tradition of the Church. And he cannot take this way since Apocryphal books, infant baptism and the adoration of saints were widely (if not universally) accepted during a great part of the Church’s history.

To my mind and that of many non-Evangelical progressive Christians, viewing the Bible in the manner I described above is the only way to be honest to the text and honest to the Almighty Himself.

Cheers.

bible

 

 

Petition against an egregious evil in Florida

Fred Christian is waging a campaign against a crying injustice which leads many of us (Continental Europeans) to view the so-called American dream as an unbearable hopeless nightmare.

 

“Petition Background

I am a 43 year old Florida Resident who never has had health insurance in my adult llife time ! I am one of over one Million Florida Residents who need a little help from my State! Our lives could be shortened by illneses that could have been prevented with access to Medical Services that would potentially keep us alive and heathy! For example I am an asthmatic and access to Medical Services would help, people like me greatly !  “

 

This is an aspect of Martin Luther King that the ruling class wants us to forget.

 

Such as an injustice in an allegedly godly nation is a spit in Christ’s face.

 

I think that proponents of the Christian Right should reconsider their priorities.

Jesus did not threatened prostitutes and homosexuals with hellfire (meaning the lost of one’s existence) but religious bigots and those failing to apply charity.

 

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

SIGN THE PETITION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

How to rationally criticize a religion: the origin of misogyny

I recently bumped into this picture and find it perfectly illustrates an ideological and irrational criticism of religions found everywhere in the Western world.

Foto

 

The first obvious mistake in this image is the same type of shameless overgeneralization I exposed in A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality. The fact that you can find demonstrably odious verses in the Bible is no evidence that the whole Bible (who was written by many conflicting authors) is a wicked book.

The second mistake consists of judging the morality of ancient authors according to our advanced and enlightened Western standards. It would certainly be silly to mock Greek philosophers (or other writers in the antiquity) due to some of their extremely erroneous scientific beliefs. Likewise we should also evaluate the moral (and theological) strength of a historical character according to his cultural background and the Zeitgeist back then.

If this principle is followed, we will find that Paul’s treatment of women was quite progressive for his time (even if it would be pretty reactionary today) and that Jesus view of them was truly revolutionary.

All of this raises the following questions: were men in the past misogynists owing to their religious beliefs?

Or did they develop misogynists religious beliefs due to their desire to subjugate and exploit women and dominate over them?

 

While always boasting about their alleged rational superiority, anti-theists are not trying to scientifically answer all these questions.

Instead they are picking and choosing whichever facts suit them for drawing extremely sweeping conclusions, like far right ideologists do all the time.

 

I think that such kinds of arguments are only valid against fundamentalists and Conservative believers who consider their holy writings as being utterly devoid of errors.

They lamentably fail to show that the entire religion or sacred book is evil or that its past members did not imperfectly experience a perfect God.

De Edward Snowden isch gar nit willkumm in Däitschlond (English too)

English version:  Edward Snowden isn’t welcome at all in Germany

Lorraine Franconian – Lothringisch

Ich bin iwer de letzte Entscheidung von Angela Merkel extrem enttäuscht, de Asylrecht dem Edward Snowden NIET ze gewe, der een Zeuge von de skandalöse amerikanische Verletzung des Datenschutzes von normalen Bürger in oneri Länner isch.

Es isch gar keeni Iwerraschung, da de däitsche Führungsschicht zweifellos gezeigt hat, dass sie es liewer hat, de wilde Kapitalismus ze diene anstatt Gerechtigkhät.

Image

Es sieht so us, als ob de wohre Dirigente von Amerika mit ihre europäische Knechtlänner alles witermache werre, was sie wolle.

 

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Missionary atheism, intellectual honesty and John Loftus

I recently had a short but interesting interaction with anti-Christian apologist John Loftus on the blog of progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser.

Bild

John first wrote to Randal:

Randal, I look forward to your book. It’s really hard to write one from the other side of the fence and have it accurately represent one’s opponents. I think you’ll reject the “Rebellion Hypothesis,” which is needed. It’s too bad many Christians aren’t where you’re at on this, but they probably will be in a decade or more.Dr. James Sennett once told me that my book WIBA didn’t contain any straw man arguments as far as he could tell, for which I was pleased. I hope you can do the same.Just recently a guy said the same thing he did:

I was also afraid that the apologetic arguments mentioned in the book would be misrepresented and it was absolutely refreshing to see their arguments accurately presented and cited before thoroughly deconstructing them (many of which were quoted from the very same books I had read as a teen).

http://www.debunkingchristiani…Not everyone will think this, but I have repeatedly caught you doing what Christians on the other side on my fence say that I don’t do. You do mischaracterize the opposition, a lot, but also a lot less than most of them do.”

I responded:

While I once applauded you for your “advice to a Christian apologist”, I do believe your mischaracterize your opponents a lot too, at least much more than Randal does. Contrarily to your current conviction, there are many, many Christians who reject atrocities found in the Old Testament and who don’t view the Bible as necessarily more inspired than other Christian books, however difficult this might be to grasp for a former Protestant having been traumatized by fundamentalism. So I think you should rename your Blog “Debunking Evangelicalism” and try to really understand your opponents before criticizing them, because you seem to be much more interested to win new converts than having a friendly and respectful conversation about our beliefs concerning ultimate reality. This is very sad for polarized America (and more generally our polarized world) desperately needs nice discussions where people do not bully each other. Friendly greetings.

John wrote back

Lotharson, I try to debunk Christianity in all it’s forms. The problem is that Christianity is a many splintered thing. I quote from the authors who claim to represent Christianity so there are no straw men there. I co-authored a book with Randal, a progressive evangelical, and in it I took on his views. That you continue making this claim means you simply don’t understand. Yours is the correct Christianity, right? If I quote you and argue against you will you say the same thing?

To which I wrote back

Hello John, thank you very much for your answer.You spend the large majority of your time debunking Conservatism Evangelicalism, and I read only few things from you concerning <b> non-Evangelical </b> progressive Christianity.
Let me say I am in total agreement with many things you write, yet I don’t view them as a challenge against my own faith at all. You state there are many Christianities out there, and I agree with you. In oder to defeat Christianity (with a capital “C”) you ought to be able to demonstrate that they are all false or extremely implausible. So you have to develop <u> general </u> arguments showing that all forms of Christianity are equally false. Let me give you an analogy.
There are countless <b> conflicting </b> materialist theories of the mind out there.
I would be completely foolish if I were to conclude that materialism is false just because I could disprove <b> one </b> of them. Yet this is clearly the impression you all too often give. After having shown that inerrancy is an incoherent and silly teaching, you give to your reader the impression this shows that <b>C</b>hristianity has been refuted, losing track of the numerous Christians who reject this doctrine from the very start. Your writings about the problem of pain are far better in that they handle a troubling topic for ALL Christians. You are quite an intelligent guy, and I think you would be far more convincing if you stepped back from the culture war and started understanding your adversaries before criticizing them.
Until then you will remain an ideologist in opposition to Jeffrey Jay Lowder and Randal Rauser who are true scholars earnestly seeking the truth. Cheers.

John Loftus clearly shows by a behavior that he has remained a missionary fundamentalist, much more interested in winning new converts to his own sect of atheism than seeking the truth.I first realized this after having read his dispute with the nice and respect full atheistic philosopher Jefrfrey Jay Lowder.The latter took him to task for not caring about the validity of atheistic arguments used to deconvert people.Here is Loftus’s response:

I would no more spend time arguing against an ineffective atheist argument than I would spend time baking cookies I had no intention of doing anything with. Why bother? I’m not interested in a discussion for discussion’s sake. I have a warranted properly basic belief that there is no God, so all that’s left is to persuade believers otherwise, along the same lines as Stephen Law recently argued.”

I was truly dumbstruck after having read that. John Loftus keeps calling Christian theologians deceptive and delusional liars, and here he has clearly acknowledge he is not pursuing truth.In the past, I had a great respect for John and sincerely tried to engage a real conversation with him.Now I am strongly tempted to just say:”Why bother with him? Why should I waste my time with a self-proclaimed ideologist trying to win converts at all costs?”

 

Iwer de konservative Evangelikalismus un Homophobie (also an English version)

English Version: On conservative Evangelicalism and homophoby. Feel free to comment there at any time!

Lothringische Version  (Lorraine Franconian)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorraine_Franconian

De progressive Theologe Randal Rauser hat echt eeni guti Erwet geleischtet, als er iwer mehrere (repräsentativi) Fälle von Schwulenhass innerhalb der evangelikalen Welt berichtet hat.

Sien meescht uffällige (un voll schreckliche) Beispiel isch de Fall von Evangelike us Amerika, die de Diktator von Ugana gepriese hon, Schwule hinzerichte.

homobashing

Ich glawe, mir hon starki theologischi Grünne, Homosexuelle in de Kerch willkumme ze heisse.

Wenn ich de relative Wichtigket von Homosexualität un soziale Gerechtigket in de Evangelien un de gonzi Bibel vergleiche, bin ich wohrlich iwer de Zitmenge skandalisiert, die Evangelikale iwer de Homosexualität verbringe, während sie niet nur atroce Abweichunge zwischen de Gesundhäitssystem fir armi un räichi kinner toleriere sondern aach GEGEN jeden Versuch sin, diese tragischi Situation ze verännere.

“De werscht een Bom on seeni Obste erkenne…” hat uns de Jesus gelehrt un gewarnt.

 

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Recovering from the Conservative apologetic industry

Randy Harman has just published his fascinating testimony about his experiences as a former Conservative Evangelical apologist.

Part 1

Part 2

part 3

He told us from the very beginning that ” Just as it is easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater, these posts are in no way an attempt to say apologetics as a whole is a pointless discipline, nor are they intended to say that by defining myself as an “ex-apologist” I refuse any rational argumentation or apologetic endeavors.

I am an apologist in so far as it is a “tool” in my belt, not a vocation or an identity.”

In what follows I have copied some of the passages which I find the most profound and insightful.

Reason did little to strengthen my faith, despite my repeated claim that it “saved it.” It just turned me into a jerk with a lot of ammo–a jerk who merely pretended to have things put together by the overwhelming evidence of Christianity but, in reality, who was more assuredly as confused, carnal, and lost as the person I was insistent to win over to Christ through rigorous argumentation.

The doubts that I dealt with ten years ago are the same doubts that I deal with now, albeit in different ways sometimes and I routinely pray, not read, for faith. Rationalism never quenches the thirst of doubt; it only masquerades it.

Apologetics did not save my faith. It saved my pride.”

  • Why is it that so many are threatened when popular boundaries are brought into question by none other than fellow Christians?
  • Why is it, as I have seen personally, so many apologists turn out to be jerks, little different in rhetoric and spirit than the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter?

As the late Stan Grenz and John Franke note in their tremendous book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, it is somewhat ironic that modernist thinking has extended so far in both the directions of the “godless” and the “godly.” For every atheist that’s incorrigibly committed to the truth of his philosophical naturalism there is an evangelical incorrigibly committed to his theism in such a way that neither one lacks the need to feel absolutely certain.

For these evangelicals, conviction leaves no room for doubt, and so in popular Christian apologetics doubt is something to be assuaged with answers

I find beauty in the multitude of voices, for the truth is sometimes life does seem nihilistic and we need Ecclesiastes to stand beside us or Job to yell at God with us;

I find beauty in reading Scripture primarily to save my soul and teach me how to live like and within Christ, not in teaching me what to believe and how to think about Christ.

My last two posts (here and here) dealt with my testimony as a trained apologist and a transformation that took place when I allowed myself to really stop thinking of faith as a science. This post still deals with what I find to be a strange irony in the discipline of apologetics, namely, the insistence on a “rational and well thought out” faith with the insistence on upholding scriptural inerrancy and creationism.

To that end, I have to confess that I am incredibly bothered by the fact that the popular apologetics movement laments the 75% of students who leave the faith (they say, “because they don’t have intellectual answers for what they believe”) and yet they demand that one cannot embrace certain conclusions of their disciplines, no matter how well thought out and evidenced.

It is my conviction that when we insist that young people have to choose between evolution and God or the critical results of scholarship and faith, we are not at all helping students overcome some of the intellectual barriers and questions they might have. Rather, we contribute to the swath of students who find Christianity to be opposed to reason.

I have watched too many friends abandon all trust in God because they were told they need to choose between the boundaries set by evangelical apologetics and science.

Though he is still more conservative than I am, I agree with most he has written.

I also want to point out that the enlightenment leaves us with a false dichotomy, namely:

1) having no grounds for thinking that Christianity is true, therefore pretending to know what you don’t know

2) having a Christian faith warranted by evidential arguments in the same way our belief in the theory of universal gravitation is warranted.

Unlike the claims of anti-theists, there are many Evangelicals who think that their faith is grounded on reason and evidence, thereby rejecting 2).

But I think that one option has been utterly left out.

3) Faith does not mean pretending to know what you don’t know, but to passionately hope in something even if the evidence is not sufficient.

I certainly believe there are good arguments against materialism and intriguing ones for the existence of a supernatural realm and theism.

Yet I also recognize that all these arguments (as well as those for atheism) depends on some postulates which cannot be proven and whose acceptance might very well strongly hinge on one’s own psychological make up.

Let us also consider the need of intellectually humility emphasized by Einstein:

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of “humility.” that is to say the warranted conclusion that there might very well be many things our minds cannot fathom.

I think we have good grounds for concluding that many of our ideas about ultimate reality are pretty tentative and should never be made absolute.

But there is nothing which prevents us from passionately hoping in their truth.

Actually I know no human being who can practically live without hoping in many things he cannot asses the likelihood of.

Do you?

 

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(Liste von Themen und Posten).

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A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser just posted a wonderful post responding to one of his atheistic commentators.

Atheism, free thought, and Bible burning

The other day I posted an interview with the apologist and philosopher Matthew Flannagan. The interview consisted of a forty-five minute conversation in which Matt developed a thoughtful and nuanced perspective on the nexus between biblical hermeneutics, metaethics, and normative ethics. The Atheist Missionary responded in the comment thread. While he declined to offer any substantial engagement with Matt’s position, he did offer the following comment:

“I can honestly say that listening to this exchange was the first time in my life I have ever considered whether humanity would be better off if we just started burning Bibles.”

Apparently this was not just a passing fancy, TAM then tweeted the same sentiment:

The Atheist Missionary

Do you remember about a decade ago when some atheists tried to rebrand themselves as “brights”? Not surprisingly, it never caught on, and atheists continue to have an image problem in certain spheres of society. But it isn’t all bad news for they have nonetheless managed one public relations coup: just consider the common association people make between “atheism” and “free thought”. According to a very popular narrative, religion breeds dogmatism and intolerance while atheism encourages free thought, open-mindedness and tolerance. As a result, people have come to think there is some natural association between atheism and free thought.

But it just ain’t so. Atheism has no essential connection with free thought. At most, the connection that does exist is a result of historical accident. Given that atheists are often a marginalized minority defending their rights in wider society, it is no surprise they tend to be de facto defenders for free thought.

However, one can readily find examples of atheists who act as enemies of free thought. And here we have an example. In his comments here, TAM reminds us that being an atheist does not ensure that one is a real advocate of free thought. Nothing could be more inimical to the spirit of free thought than book burning. And yet, rather than attempt to engage in Matt’s philosophical argumentation, TAM condescends to him whilst advocating for censorship and book burning, and burning of a text accepted by many people as sacred! Incredibly, TAM is behaving like Terry Jones, that pastor in Florida who gained notoriety after advocating for the burning of Qur’ans. And then just to make sure that we know he means business, TAM reiterates his position, tweeting out his intolerance to his 5896 followers.

Maybe TAM was just “venting”. Yeah, that’s it!

But is that an excuse? So the next time a Christian encounters a nuanced and sophisticated proponent of atheism, is he free to “vent” by ignoring the arguments, condescending to the atheist, and advocating for the burning of atheist books?

The lesson of the day? If you’re an atheist you just might be a free thinker. But if you are, it is not because you’re an atheist.

This was my own response.

Hello Randal.

It is planned I am going to interview Matt on the topic of Biblical atrocities as soon as I’ll find the time (right now I am painstakingly writing a scientific paper).

Otherwise, this comment confirms me that the New Atheism is a far right hate group .

As illustrated by my interaction with two militant atheists, they often reason in the following way:

1) If there are divine atrocities in the Bible, the WHOLE Bible is an evil book
2) There are atrocities in the Bible
3) Therefore the Bible is an evil book.

Now both you and I agree with 2) .

But 1) is an utterly irrational premise. What is called the Bible is made of many different books by many different authors having various and conflicting perspectives, as made clear by Thom Stark.

So it is absurd to think that because the apocalyptic imagery of John contains morally dubious content, the sermon on the mount was bad or evil as well.

By acting like this, anti-theists clearly show they are not true scholars trying to objectively analyze the religious texts they are critical of.
No, they act like French and German far-right and racist ideologists, picking and choosing whatever fact and interpretation suit them for painting their adversaries in the most negative light AND fostering a self-righteous hatred among their followers.

Like you I want to promote a respectful conversation between atheists and believers, and am convinced there are many very nice atheistic scholars, such as Jeffrew Jay Lowder, Jason Thibodeau or your commentator Nate.

But anti-theists should be regarded as hateful bigots in exactly the same way one sees nasty fundamentalists and other far-right ideologists.

There should be no tolerance towards anti-tolerance and hate-speech.

Hell, callous indifference and embarassment

Jonny Scaramanga has written a fantastic post describing a discussion between a fundamentalist Christian and a secularist about hell.

Liz Weston hell

I must say that I really admire Jonny. He went through horrific experiences as a fundamentalist child which led him to reject Christianity altogether.

Yet, unlike the New Atheists (also called antitheists) who engage in vicious attacks against all believers, Jonny is an extremely loving and respectful person, even towards fundies.

I think that all people cherishing an open society (where freedom and tolerance are fostered) should join their forces against those threatening its very foundation.

This is what Jonny wrote:

Fundamentalists: you have not been trying very hard to save me. Either you do not really believe I am going to hell, or you do not care. Which is it?

I wasn’t going to post this until next week, but I needed to get it online while the relevant Big Questions episode is still on BBC iPlayer so you can see what I’m talking about.

Liz Weston is a member of Christ Church Southampton. She was on The Big Questions this week to defend fundamental Christianity against the charge that it is harmful to children.

Let me say this first: I like her. She got a lot of bile from Twitter atheists when the episode aired, but I chatted to her after the show and she was genuinely nice. I got the feeling that we could have spoken for a long time and found many areas of common ground. Liz was shocked by my experiences of fundamentalism and expressed genuine regret. She was also far more tolerant than I was in my fundamentalist days. I got the feeling that where we disagreed, we could have done so without it being a source of animosity.

So yes, I think Liz Weston is a good person, and that’s important to remember in light of what I’m about to say.

 

The crucial exchange came about 44 minutes into the programme.

“Nicky Campbell: So who’s going there [hell]?

Liz Weston: Anybody who hasn’t put their faith in Jesus and trusted in Him as their saviour, his death on the cross to pay for their sins… But you can go to heaven, and it’s your choice if you decide to reject Jesus.

Amanda Robinson: But I have, so I’m going to hell.

Liz: That’s fine! You’ve chosen to reject Jesus. That unfortunately is your choice and I’d love to convince you otherwise but, yeah…

Then she shrugged, and laughed.

She looked a person full in the face, told her she was going to hell…

And she laughed.

Let’s imagine an alternative scenario: instead of Liz Weston, God-botherer, and Amanda Robinson, criminologist, this was a confrontation between a qualified therapist and a person with a life-threatening addiction.

Let’s say Liz is the therapist, and Amanda Robinson is a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or has a chronic eating disorder. Liz has the only solution, and it will definitely solve Amanda’s problem. Without it, Amanda is inevitably going to destroy herself in the slowest, most agonising way. How would we expect Liz to act?

Liz would be distraught. She would implore Amanda, through tears and agonising pain, to accept her help before it’s too late. She would be doing everything in her power to get through to her. Nothing else would matter. Every other point of discussion would be put on hold. Amanda cannot see her own need for help, but Liz can save her. The frustration of the situation would put Liz on bended knee, begging Amanda to let her in. If this failed, Liz would be broken, defeated, shattered by her own impotence and inability to help.

She probably wouldn’t laugh.

The situation Liz claims to believe is much worse. In our hypothetical scenario, there would at least be an end to it: Amanda would eventually die, and the suffering would end. In the case of hell, Liz believes the suffering is eternal, without a moment’s respite. Yet Liz was able to look at Amanda and laugh when she told her about it.

Either Liz does not really believe this, or she does not care.

This is repugnant. It shows how the fundamentalist doctrine of hell can corrupt the moral compass of an otherwise good person.

If Liz does not care, then the Christian claim to moral superiority is in tatters. The claim that only Christians are capable of expressing true love, because of the Spirit of God within them becomes absurd. Her religion is evil, and her claim to morality is bankrupt.

If Liz does not really believe it, she shouldn’t say it.

So which is it?”

Afterword: For the record, I believe that the most charitable interpretation of these events is also the correct one. I think Liz laughed because she was embarrassed. She knew how awful it was to tell Amanda she was going to hell. Now I’m sure this is the source of considerable cognitive dissonance for Liz. I am not saying she is lying when she says she believes in hell, but I think this demonstrates she doesn’t actually believe it as wholeheartedly as she says.

Also, I don’t mean this to be a witch-hunt against Liz Weston specifically. As I said, I liked her. This is a specific example of a wider phenomenon I’ve observed – evangelical Christians acting like they don’t care (much) as they tell someone they are bound for hell. It’s just that this one, usefully, happened to be televised.

 

Interestingly enough, I pointed out similar things in my post entitled “On Hell and Cognitive Dissonance“.

Conservative Evangelicals are unable to live consistently with their belief that every person dying as a non-Christian will be eternally tormented owing to sins she could NOT have avoided, due to God having cursed her with a sinful nature she never asked for.

Deep inside, most of them realize that this doctrine (combined with the claim that God is perfectly loving and just) is an affront against reason and morality.

While I believe that the Bible often has contradictory voices about quite a few topics, I fail to see any verse teaching eternal torment.

When properly interpreted, I think that the authors believed in conditional immortality, meaning that those rejecting God won’t inherit eternal life and perish.

But what does “rejecting God” means?

I think that progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser gave us a nice example illustrating what it does NOT mean.

To quote myself :

I am an inclusivist but not an universalist because I consider it very likely that at least some people will reject God beyond the grave.

Conservative Evangelicals typically defend Exclusivism (only those dying as Christians will inherit eternal life) using the following reasoning:

1) The Bible is the full and unique revelation of God (which is the central pillar of Evangelicalism)
2) There is no Biblical evidence that people will have a chance to choose God after having passed away
3) Therefore only Christians will get to heaven

Yet as Randal Rauser pointed out, this is an extraordinarily offensive assertion.

“They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, ‘Boil there, you offspring of the devil!’”

Now against this backdrop turn to the encounter between a cacique (or tribal leader) and his Franciscan captors. In this encounter Hatuey, the cacique, has been told he will be executed (for no greater crime, it would seem, than not being Spanish), but that he can still save his soul before his body is slain:

“When tied to the stake, the cacique Hatuey was told by a Franciscan friar who was present, an artless rascal, something about the God of the Christians and of the articles of Faith. And he was told what he could do in the brief time that remained to him, in order to be saved and go to heaven. The cacique, who had never heard any of this before, and was told he would go to Inferno where, if he did not adopt the Christian Faith, he would suffer eternal torment, asked the Franciscan friar if Christians all went to Heaven. When told that they did he said he would prefer to go to Hell.”

It is extremely blasphemous to state that Hatuey won’t have any chance to reach heaven.

So I think that the above reasoning can be turned on its head:

1) As perfectly loving God must give a post-mortem chance to many of those who have died without Christ
2) There is no Biblical evidence that people will have a chance to choose God after having passed away
3) Therefore the Bible cannot be the full and unique revelation of God
4) Therefore Evangelicalism is wrong

(Of course many people would contest 2), thereby invalidating the conclusion).

Finally Greg pointed out that the parable of the foolish and wise virgins has to be taken at face value, thereby showing that people not having chosen Christ during this life won’t be given a second chance.

A huge problem is that as a conservative Protestant, there are quite a few things in the Bible that Greg cannot interpret literally.

The parable of the sheep and the goats illustrates that very well.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Taking this parable at face value would lead one to believe that works play an important role in salvation, a doctrine Evangelicals passionately detest.

More importantly perhaps, this parable teaches that people having never heard of Christ were serving Him while doing good deeds and will usher into His holy presence.”

So I am confident that many people having died as atheists will inherit eternal life because the god they rejected was nothing more than a hideous idol they were taught to worship.

It is worth noting that Jesus never threatened prostitutes, tax collectors and homosexuals with a destroying fire but only self-righteous bigots.

I consider it very likely that while many loving atheists will joyfully accept God/Christ/forgiveness on the other side of the grave, Fred Phelps (the God hates fags pastor) will be judged and lose his life forever.

I fail to see why this is immoral, and many secular Continental Europeans I know agree that (if there is a God) such a fate would be a just reward for the life he spent spreading hatred, thereby developing a heinous personality making him unworthy of everlasting bliss.

 

Eine kurze Einführung in den Calvinismus

English version: a short introduction to Calvinism. Feel free to comment there at any time!

Viele Menschen haben sich zurecht über die unrühmliche Behauptung des äußerst beliebten evangelikalen Predigers John Piper entrüstet, Gott würde Erdbeben verursachen, um Amerika zu bestrafen, oder

“Es ist völlig in Ordnung für Gott, Frauen und Kinder zu massakrieren, wann immer er will. Gott gibt und nimmt das Leben. Jeder der stirbt, stirbt weil Gott will, dass er stirbt. 

John PiperDennoch verdächtigen nur wenige Leute, dass dies nur der Gipfel des Eisbergs ist.

John Piper ist ein ausgesprochener Calvinist. Die reformierte Theologie oder Calvinismus ist eine Lehre, die nicht mit dem französischen Theologen Calvin begann, sondern auch in den Schriften von diversen älteren Autoren wie Luther, Zwingli, Aquinas und Alselm von Canterbury gefunden werden kann.

Der Mann, der sie in die christliche Kirche einführte war Austinus, der (ganz zufällig) auch der erste Theologe war, der die Verwendung der Folter gegen Ketzer verteidigt hat, mit all den historischen Folgen, die wir allzu gut kennen.

Eine Grundlage des Calvinismus ist der göttliche Determinismus (auch Souveränität benannt), demnach alles was geschieht (einschließlich Vergewaltigungen und Völkermorden) von Gott erwünscht und vor dem Beginn der Zeit unvermeidbar  gemacht worden ist.

john-calvin

Die andere Grundlage des Calvinismus ist das sogenannte TULIP Glaubenssystem, wobei

Völlige Verderbtheit/Unfähigkeit (Total depravity)

Aufgrund des Sündenfalls beherrscht die Sünde den ganzen Menschen, sein Denken, seine Gefühle und seinen Willen. Daher ist der natürliche Mensch nicht fähig, die Botschaft des Evangeliums zu verstehen, er ist geistlich völlig hilflos und verloren. Der Mensch kann Gottes rettende Botschaft erst verstehen, nachdem er durch den Heiligen Geist dazu befähigt wurde (Röm 5,12 LUT, Mk 4,11 LUT).

Bedingungslose Erwählung (Unconditional Election)

Dies ist Calvins Prinzip der doppelten Prädestination. Die Erwählung zum Heil vollzieht sich nach Calvin wie folgt: Gott hat die Menschen in eine Gruppe der Auserwählten und eine der Nicht-Auserwählten geteilt. Für die Auserwählten hat Gott seine Erkenntnis bestimmt und die Auferstehung vorhergesehen. Die Übrigen bleiben unwissend bezüglich Gottes und des Evangeliums. Laut Calvin sind sie von Gott verdammt auf dem Weg in die ewige Hölle. Diese Entscheidung sei noch vor der Schaffung des Universums getroffen worden und somit erst recht vor der Geburt des einzelnen Menschen sowie vor irgendwelchen Entscheidungen, die der Mensch in seinem Leben trifft. Die Gründe, warum Gott einige erwählt hat, sind unbekannt. Es ist aber offensichtlich, dass das nicht aufgrund irgendwelcher guten Werke von Seiten des Erwählten geschehen ist. Die Erwählung ist insofern nicht an irgendwelche in der Person des Erwählten liegenden Bedingungen geknüpft (Röm 9,15 LUT.21LUT).

Begrenzte Versöhnung/Sühne  (Limited Atonement)

Das ist der Glaube, dass Jesus Christus nicht gestorben ist, um alle Menschen zu retten. Sein Erlösungswerk ist nur an die auserwählten Sünder, die durch ihn gerettet sind, gerichtet (Mt 26,28 LUT, Eph 5,25 LUT).

Unwiderstehliche Gnade  (Irresistible Grace)

Gemeint ist, dass man die Gnade der Erwählung nicht ausschlagen kann. Der Mensch hat in dieser Hinsicht also keinen freien Willen, da er tot ist in seinen Vergehungen und deswegen keinerlei Macht hat, sich für Gott zu entscheiden (Eph 2,1 LUT). Nur durch den Ruf Gottes kann der Mensch geistlich wieder zum Leben erweckt werden (Eph 2,5 LUT), und somit zu Gott kommen. Jeder Mensch, den Gott erwählt hat, werde Gott erkennen. Die Erwählten können dem Ruf Gottes nicht widerstehen (Joh 6,44 LUT, Röm 8,14 LUT).

Die Beharrlichkeit der Heiligen (Perseverance of the Saints)

Die einmal Geretteten werden gerettet bleiben. Es sei unmöglich, Gottes Gnade wieder zu verlieren (Röm 8,28 LUT, Joh 6,39 LUT).

Daraus kann man schlussfolgern, dass Gott sich wünschte, dass die meisten Menschen verdammt werden und ewiglich leiden (sehr wenige Calvinisten glauben an die Vernichtung der Verdorbenen).
In zukünftigen Posten werde ich tiefergehend die logischen Implikationen der reformierten Theologie erkunden.
 lakeFire
Distanzierung: ich bin nicht einverstanden mit ihrer Verwendung von biblischen Passagen. Ich glaube, dass viele aus dem Kontext gerissen werden, während andere nur einige Aspekte des Calvinismus unterstützen aber gleichzeitig anderen widersprechen.