Hopeless prayer?

An Gott zu glauben in einer Welt voller Absurditäten

Believing in God in a world teeming with absurdities

Das alte Testament war nicht nur voller Texte, die Gottes Grösse, Güte und Wohlwollen priesen.

The Old Testaments wasn’t only full of texts praising God’s greatness, bounty and benevolence.

Nein, es enthielt auch tiefe Klagelieder und sogar Anschuldigungen gegen den Allmächtigen, der so grauenvolle Übel in der Welt und in ihrem persönlichen Leben zuliess.

No, it also contained deep lamentations and even accusations against the Almighty who allowed such atrocious evils in the world and in their personal life.

Seltsamerweise genug haben fast ALLE moderne christliche Gesänge einen siegreichen Ton und erlauben es zerbrochenen Seelen nicht, die Verzweiflung auszudrücken, die sie ehrlich fühlen.

Strangely enough, almost ALL modern Christian songs have a victorious tone and don’t allow broken souls to express the despair they’re sincerely feeling.

Deswegen war ich entzückt, als ich eine junge deutsche Rapperin entdeckte, die sich über Gott beklagt hat.

Therefore I was delighted as a I found a young German female rapper complaining about God.

Ich bin mir nicht sicher, dass sie eine Christin ist, aber ich fand was sie sang profund und einsichtsvoll.

I’m not quite sure if she’s a Christian but I found what she sang profound and insightful.

Von daher verlinkte ich ihren Gesang und habe es auch auf Englisch übersetzt.

So I linked the song and translated it in English.

Wie viel Tränen braucht es noch um den Moment zu ertränken /

How many tears does one need for drowning the moment
wie viele Szenen muss man spielen, um das Schiff zu versenken /

How many scenes must one enact for sinking the ship
wir stehen im reißenden Fluss, ohne das Schicksal zu lenken /

We’re standing in a tearing flow, without being capable of steering fate
den Anker am Fuß mit dem Strick in den Händen /

The anchor is at our feet with the rope in our hands
ich geb’ vielen zu denken, was hast denn du gedacht /

I’m providing food for thought for many, what did you think?
wünsch’ mir erst ne gute Nacht, wenn das Gute mich bewacht /

First I long for a good night, when the Good is watching over me

du hast uns nicht zu dem gemacht, was wir heute sind /

You did not make us those who we are today
doch deine Schöpfung hat bewiesen, dass die Substanz nicht stimmt /

but your Creation has proved that the substance isn’t right
verlang von deinem Kind, was du gegeben hast /

Request from your child what you’ve given
ein Leben, das, regiert von Hass, nicht in Dein Streben passt /

A life that is ruled by hatred doesn’t fit your striving
nenn’ mir den Grund für die Idee, den Menschen zu kreier’n /

Give me the reason for the idea of creating man
denn keines deiner Wesen hat gelernt, zu existier’n /

For there isn’t any being which has learned how to exist
man lebt um zu verlieren, verliert um draus zu lernen /

One lives for losing and loses for learning out of it
lernt mit Verlust zu leben, bis man das Leben verliert /

one learns to live with loss until one loses life
die Suche nach dem Sinn soll meine Aufgabe sein? /

Seeking for meaning should be my task?
aus Angst ihn nicht zu finden, schließ ich die Augen und schlaf ein.

Out of fear of not finding it, I close my eyes and fall asleep
Ich glaub an dich, glaube fest daran, dass es dich gibt /

I believe in you, I firmly believe that you’re out there
doch glaube nicht, dass dir gefällt was du hier siehst /

yet I don’t believe that you’re pleased with what you see
unsere Welt vergießt Tränen im ewigen Krieg /

Our world is shedding tears in this everlasting war
wir brauchen bald ein Wunder, damit sich die Wunde schließt /

We soon need a wonder in order to close the wound
doch der Glaube liegt tief unter dem Hass und der Wut /

But faith lies deep underneath hate and anger
über Bomben, Politik und das vergossene Blut /

about bombs, politics and the shed blood
du wartest, tust nichts bis zum jüngsten Gericht /

You’re waiting and not doing anything till the judgment day
doch sie fürchten sich nicht, denn sie kämpfen für dich.

But they don’t fear each other for they’re fighting for your sake.

Menschen tun alles für Geld, alles für Macht, alles für Ansehen, Ruhm und Neid hat fast alles geschafft /

People do everything for money, everything for power, everything for prestige, glory and jealousy has almost caused everything

jede Zeit spürt die Kraft mancher heiligen Lügen / seis bei Hexenverbrennung oder bei Kreuzzügen /

Each time feels the strength of some Holy Lies, be it during witch burning or crusades
Geld sühnt Sünden und der heilige Papst /

Money atones for sins and the Holy Pope
lebt verschlossen hinter Türen in nem eigenen Staat /

lives behind closed doors in his own State

(Remark: the song was written before Pope Francis)
Palästina verbrannt für das heilige Land hat keiner erkannt /

Palestine burnt down for the Holy Land and nobody recognized this
Intoleranz hält auch ner Mauer nicht stand /

Not even a wall can withstand intolerance
denn nach jedem Kampf und seinem Heerführer /

for after every battle and its warlord
gibt’s gottseidank als Resonanz auch gleich nen Märtyrer /

there is (Thank God) as resonance also a new martyr
sag mir wofür sind wir da, such den Sinn der Szenerie /

Tell me why we’re here, I’m seeking the meaning of the scenery
im Verstand der USA und den Bomben auf Bali /

in the reasoning of the USA and the bombs on Mali
es geht nicht um dich, die Attentäter suchen sich /

It’s not about you, assassins are seeking themselves
da niemand gut zu ihnen ist, hoffen sie dass du es bist /

since nobody is good towards them, they hope you’ll be The one
und sei es Moslem, Jude, Christ, es sind wir die es betrifft /

We’re all concerned, no matter if we’re Muslims, Jews or Christians
weil durch jeden neuen Anschlag unsre Welt ein Stück zerbricht

because through every new strike, our world is being shattered a bit more
-chorus-

Siehst du die traurigen Kinder mit den traurigen Augen /

Do you see the sad kids with sad eyes?
die leeren Mägen der Kinder derer die an dich glauben /

the empty stomaches of the children of those who believe in you
hier ist alles so planlos, und das von Anfang an /

Here everything is so aimless, and that from the very beginning
wir versinken im Chaos und sind selbst Schuld daran /

We’re sinking into chaos and are ourselves guilty of this
du hast uns Gefühle gegeben, wir können denken und reden /

You’ve given us feelings, we can think and talk
und als dein Sohn zu uns kam, nahmen wir ihm das Leben /

and as your Son came to us, we took him his life
hier predigen Menschen vom Geben als dein Gesandte /

here folks are preaching about giving as your messengers
doch wo waren die Pfarrer als man die Juden verbrannte /

but where were pastors as Jews were being burnt alive
denn Mensch ist Mensch und wird immer Mensch bleiben /

for man is man and will always remain man
wir haben Angst zu verlieren deshalb müssen wir streiten /

We are anguished about losing therefore we fight
das Nächstenliebe uns im Wesen liege ist fraglich /

it’s questionable that the love for our neighbors lies in our being
ob ich die Bibel lese, frag nicht, ich glaub an Schrift /

If I read the Bible? Don’t ask, I believe in Scripture
nur gibt der Inhalt vieler Psalme vielleicht zu wenig Klarsicht /

Still, the content of many Psalms doesn’t perhaps provide us with much insight
weil so wenig von dem was passierte wirklich klar ist /

because so little of that what happened is really clear
bitte versteh’ mich nicht falsch, ich bin dankbar für viel /

Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m thankful for much
nur versteh’ ich manchmal nicht, was dir am Menschen gefiel’

I just sometimes don’t understand, what pleases you in humans

https://i2.wp.com/www.kraftfeld.ch/bilder/2004/040626_fiva_mc_fotos/fiva.9.jpg

Ich hoffe ganz ehrlich, dass ihr daraus Inspiration schöpfen konntet 🙂

I sincerely hope you could draw inspiration out of it 🙂

 

 

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

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

Advertisements

Remythologizing Genesis

A review of Genesis and the Rise of Civilization, by J. Snodgrass.

CoverBook

There can be little doubt that the first book of our Bibles plays a major role in the North-American culture war and the countless bloody battles raging between fundamentalists and secularists.

 

Both camps keep proclaiming ad nausea that the truth of the Christian faith stands and falls with the scientific accuracy of the Biblical text and as a consequence many American young people see themselves confronted with the choice between embracing a pseudo-science made out of thin air and rejecting their faith in Christ altogether.

creationism-4

This confrontation is gravely compounded by the very entrenched habit of viewing the Bible as an unified whole, which entails that errors in some parts imply errors everywhere.

 

In such a context, this book of J. Snodgrass, a liberal Biblical scholar, preacher and teacher came out as truly refreshing.

Many decades ago, the late German Protestant scholar Rudolf Bultmann set out to “demythologize” the Bible by exposing elements in the New Testament he viewed as utterly at odds with our modern scientific knowledge and replacing them by existential readings.

bultmann2

I think it is fair to say that Snodgrass’ agenda in this outstanding groundwork is not to demythologize the text of Genesis but rather to remythologize it, which basically means two things:
– overcoming the Conservative Christian tendency to misinterpret the text for making it look more rational, more scientific or more consistent with other parts of the Bible- surmounting the pervasive disdain of our Western culture against myths and their equation with worthless untruths.

 

In what follows, I want to explain why I think that this book is an extremely useful resource without betraying too much of its content and without concealing my own areas of disagreement.

 

Old Hebrew tales as parables and allegories

 

According to Snodgrass, many of the elements which have always been historically interpreted as supernatural events (such as the devil masquerading as a snake, God driving out two real persons from a wonderful garden, waters covering the whole world…) might very well have been intended to illustrate quite earthly things.

 

He begins by reminding us that unlike what many of my readers were taught in Sunday Schools, the book of Genesis is NOT a coherent document composed by a unique author (usually seen as Moses) but a mosaic work by different writers separated by large time spans and not sharing the same agendas.

He did a nice job explicating the scholarly consensus as to why the flood narrative (which leads a great part of the American population to reject significant portions of our scientific knowledge) is actually made up of two different tales clumsily woven together, as can be well visualized on the following page.

He also pointed out that the differences between Genesis 1 and 2 are best interpreted by conceptions of God at odds with each others.

Genesis 1 was all about affirming Israelite religious identity during the Babylonian exile and challenging the surrounding polytheistic creation myths.

cain-and-abel

Genesis 2 and 3 were written much earlier and are generally seen as early Israel’s explanation for its own origin, those of the people around Her and the problem of evil. Many critical scholars think it was written at the time of king Solomon, but Snodgrass call this into question, humorously  writing:

“The question of when and how the Eden stories were formed has been a puzzling one in Biblical scholarship. They are usually said to have
been assembled in the age of Solomon, a thousand years before the common era. But Solomon was a king who valued knowledge, enforced labor, and collected women – why would a story from his court have been so pessimistic about domination? If Solomon had supervised the writing, it would have gone something like this: ‘God made Adam and a thousand Eves, and commanded Adam to enslave the whole world, and kill anyone or anything who got in his way. Which he happily did. The End.”

This is but one of the numerous examples where the author conveys his scholarly thoughts in a remarkably witty way.

 

His intriguing idea is that Genesis 2-3 relates to the emergence of civilization (hence the title of the book) out of a populations of hunters and gatherers, who are themselves the ultimate source of the sacred writing and considered the rise of agriculture as a curse being far worse than only an unwelcome evolution.

He shows how this makes sense of many elements of the text, such as Cain and Abel symbolizing human populations rather than individuals, agriculture going hand in hand with environmental problems and related societal issues, such as a greater subjugation of women which was seen as a curse in Genesis 3, and so on and so forth.

3825_hunt

He then went on offering other interesting historical and natural explanations for the rest of the book of Genesis and other parts of the Hebrew Bible, spending a large amount of time analyzing the stories recounting the life of Abraham as well as those of his children and descendants.

Like the great liberal scholar and movie maker Thom Stark did in his book The Human Faces of God, Snodgrass made it clear that there are different portraits of God found in the Hebrew Bible, and that besides the genocidal imperialistic god of the first part of Joshua, one can also find a God of liberation and revolution at other places.

 

Viewing the Bible as an ancient book among others

 

It is extremely welcome that Snodgrass made an abundant use of the rabbinic Midrash and of Ancient Near Eastern myths throughout the whole book, showing how using the same analysis illuminates many aspects of the Biblical texts.

As I myself argued at other places, I fail to see why books contained within the Protestant Canon have necessarily to be more inspired than books located outside of it, and I am open about God’s actions (including miraculous ones) in extra-Biblical stories as well.

 

The impenetrable shroud of history and speculative assumptions

 

That said, there are some points about which I part company with the author. While I find most of his interpretations quite fascinating, I think they often remain nothing more than speculations: owing to the very few data we dispose about the precise identity of the authors and their motives, there are considerable degrees of uncertainty in any reconstruction one tries to reach.

And it is often possible to interpret the same textual situations in many different ways. While Snodgrass is obviously right that the Biblical writers (like almost everyone at that time) had a much lower of women that modern Westerners, it is debatable whether or not they always likened them to material goods or cattle.
As far as I’m concerned, I find that the Sara of Genesis acted as a pretty emancipated woman, leading several times his husband to comply to her will rather than submitting to him, as (ironically enough) she is described to have done by the authors of Hebrews in the New Testament.

 

Evil and divine hideness

 

One aspect I missed in the book is a wrestling with the problem of evil and divine hideness. Why did God create a world with so much pain, and why did he not inerrantly inspire chosen writers rather than letting them writing down their own fallible theological thoughts?

theologys-toughest-question

I certainly think there are tentative answers to these questions, but they remain the strongest arguments against Christianity, challenging both Conservative and progressive believers at the same time.

I found it great if liberal Christians were to take more time to defend their faith or hope in a good God against such objections, or perhaps honestly and pastorally struggle alongside their readers with these topics.

 

Another problem is that Snodgrass seems to explain human evil purely in terms of psychological and social factors and does not consider a genuinely indeterminate freedom.

 

A worthwhile theologically liberal book

 

These disagreements notwithstanding, I find that Genesis and the Rise of Civilization is really an outstanding scholarly book written for lay persons, and I warmly recommend it to anyone interested in the historical-critical scholarship of the Bible without expecting a patch of easy answers to appease the anguish of his or her soul.

 

 Disclaimer: this book has been granted to me through SpeakEasy so that I might review it impartially. I hereby swear I have striven for objectivity in my entire review.

 

 

 

Von Luther, Hitler, und religiöser Verwirrung

English version.  Feel free to comment there!

Richard Weikart hat für Empörung gesorgt, nachdem er sein Buch “Von Darwin zu Hitler” veröffentlicht hat, wo er argumentiert, dass das darwinistische Konzept der natürlichen Selektion eine wichtige Rolle innerhalb der nationalsozialistischen Ideologie gespielt hat.

In dem gnadenlosen nordamerikanischen Kulturkrieg hat das zu zahlreichen hitzigen Debatten geführt, mit Menschen, die behaupten, dass der Nazismus eine natürliche Konsequenz von Darwis Ideen wäre, während andere Menschen behaupten, dass die Nazis den Darwinismus ablehnten und Heiden oder sogar Christen waren.

Ich glaube, dass die Wahrheit irgendwo zwischen diesen beiden Extremen liegt, aber dies wird das Thema eines zukünftigen Artikels sein.

Der mutmassliche darwinistische Ursprung der Holocaust gibt vielen konservativen Evangelikalen das Gefühl, dass sie im richtigen Lager sind, und dass die von ihnen bekämpften gottlosen Liberalen das Ende der Welt einbringen werden.

Dennoch werfen sie sehr selten einen Blick auf die Rolle des Gründers des Protestantismus in der Entwicklung des Antisemitismus.

Zurzeit von Luther hatte die römische katholische Kirche wirklich eine missbräuchliche Theologie in vielen Hinsichten und Luther dachte, dass er sehr hart zu arbeiten hatte, um seine Erlösung zu bekommen.

Ich glaube, dass seine Erfahrung von bedingungsloser Gnade und göttlicher Liebe echt war, aber dies führte ihn auch dazu, an die Lehre der Vorherbestimmung zu glauben, dass also Gott manche Menschen gewählt hat, an ihn zu glauben und gerettet zu werden, während er alle anderen zu einem Abstieg in die Hölle vorherbestimmt hat.

Luther hat versucht, die Juden zu bekehren und wurde ständig frustrierter, zu sehen, dass alle seine Bemühungen scheinbar umsonst waren.

Dies führte zu einem realen Hass, der in seinem Kunstwerk “Von den Juden und Ihren Lügen” zusammengefasst wurde.

Hier wurden aus der englischen Wikipedia die sieben Gesetze niedergeschrieben, die er ins Deutschland und vielleicht sogar anderswo einführen wollte:

  1. Jüdische Synagogen und Schulen sollten niedergebrannt werden, und die Ruinen sollten außer jeder Sichtweite weg gegraben werden.
  2. Von Juden besessene Häuser sollten auf die selbe Weise niedergerissen werden, während die Besitzer erzwungen werden sollten, in landwirtschaftlichen Gebäuden zu leben.
  3. Ihre religiöse Schriften sollten ihnen beschlag genommen werden.
  4. Rabbis sollte es untersagt sein, zu predigen, die Ungehorsam sollte mit einer Hinrichtung bestraft werden.
  5. Ein sicheres Verhalten auf den Strassen sollte für Juden abgeschafft werden.
  6. Wuchern sollte verboten werden, und all das jüdische Silber und Gold sollte entnommen werden und beiseite gespeichert.
  7. Die jüdische Bevölkerung sollte landwirtschaftlich versklavt werden.

In 1923 preiste Hitler Luther für seine Ideen, und nannte ihn den größten Geist, der “die Juden sah, wie wir heutzutage anfangen, sie zu sehen.”

Solche Schriften offenbaren uns viel über Luthers Herz. Es ist unmöglich, dies durch die Behauptung wegzueklären, er war “ein Mann seiner Zeit”.

Die Täufer lehnten die Gewalt völlig ab, und als sie grausame Verfolgungen eingingen haben sie am meisten darauf mit Liebe reagiert. Und mehr als tausend Jahre zuvor, war der Apostel Paulus auch frustriert, seine volksverwandten Juden nicht bekehrt zu haben, aber anstatt sie zu verfluchen, hat er Gott darum gebeten, er wäre selber verdammt, sodass sie errettet werden!

Kann man nun daraus schliessen, dass Luther wahrscheinlich kein Mann Gottes war, dass seine Erfahrungen und Glauben Betrügereien waren?

Ich denke es nicht.
Es ist wahr, dass der Hauptaspekt der Reformation  „Sola Scriptura“ anscheinend selbstwidersprüchlich ist.
Gott spricht autoritativ nur durch die Schriften, mit der Ausnahme des Tages wo die frühe Kirche sich entschloss, welche Bücher zum Kanon gehören und welche nicht.

Die Lehre von vielen progressiven römischen Katholiken, dass Gott zu uns durch die Tradition der Gläubiger über Jahrhunderte spricht, und dass die Bibel selbst eine solche Tradition ist, ist zumindest frei von Widersprüchen.

Aber ich denke, dass während dieser Period der Geschichte, ein großer Teil der Kirch eine missbräuchliche Theologie hatte, die Menschen dazu geführt hat, ihre Erlösung zu verdienen oder sogar zu kaufen. Ich glaube, dass nach seiner verzweifelten Einsicht, es war zu schwer  für ihn, Luther wirklich die Gnade und Liebe Gottes erfuhr.

Aber er hat dann frei gewählt, dem Hass und der Dunkelheit die Herrschaft über andere Teile seines Herzens zu geben.
Seine Doktrin, dass Gott manche Menschen zum Höllenfeuer vorherbestimmt hat, war zweifelsohne ein Gebiet, wo seine Gedanken völlig verdunkelt waren.

Aber dies wirft ein Problem auf: warum erlaubt Gott Menschen, Sachen über Ihn zu begreifen, während sie auch an gotteslästerischen Unsinne glaubten?

Ich begegne oft dem selben Problem in der Bibel, mit dem Buch der Psalmen, wo die Güte und Liebe auf eine wundervolle Weise gepriesen werden, aber wo Psalmisten auch Gott darum gebeten haben, die Köpfe der Kinder seines Feinds zu zerschmettern.

Und ich sehe das selbe Problem in meinem Leben: manchmal werde ich von der Liebe Gottes überwältigt, die ich auf meine Mitmenschen weiter giessen will, aber ich werde auch immer noch von meiner Selbstsucht und tiefsitzenden Befürchtungen angetrieben.

Ich glaube, dass Gott einem riesigen Risiko eingegangen ist, uns Freiheit zu geben, und dass eine totale Offenbarung von Ihm diese Freiheit erheblich verringern würde.

Ich glaube echt, dass Gott völlig fähig ist, für das dadurch verursachte Übel in der kommenden Welt zu kompensieren.

 

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

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

Eric Seibert on Biblical atrocities

Lothringische Version: Eric Seibert iwer Biblische atrozitäte.

Unjust violence and misogyny in the  old testament

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser interviewed Biblical Scholar Eric Seibert on the topic of violence in the Bible.

Eric Seibert

He did an excellent job showing why the usual strategies of Conservative Evangelicals such as Paul Copan and William Lane Craig completely fail to show that the god they worship is not a moral monster (or does not suffer under a split-brain disorder).

I don’t, however, share his pacifist convictions. I believe in Just War Theory and in the righteous retribution of wicked deeds.
So it is not the presence of violence within the Bible which shocks me but atrocities committed against innocents, such as Canaanite babies or toddlers, or a law stipulating that a raped woman having not dared scream should be stoned as a adulteress.

I think there is just no way one can defend such kinds of laws as stemming from God.

Now this raises lots of question concerning the inspiration of Scripture. If we know there are clearly parts of it which contradict God’s will, how can we trust the others?

I think that a paradigm shift is clearly necessary.

Evangelicals should stop seeing the Bible as being necessarily more inspired than other Christian and Jewish books, as I explained in a prior post a long time ago.

Such a change does not, however, inevitably implies embracing theological liberalism and anti-supernaturalism.

To take a concrete example, I read the books of the apostle Paul in the same way  I read books from C.S. Lewis: I believe that both were examplary Christians, great defenders of the faith and extraordinary men, and the presence of logical, empirical and theological errors in their writings does not prevent me at all to appreciate all the right things they figured out.

But if we don’t believe that the books within the Biblical Canon are more inspired than books outside it, how can we make the difference between right and wrong beliefs about God?

While I cannot speak for all progressive Christians, I believe that we should base our theology on the fact that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God. Even tough human beings are faillible creatures they are quite able to recognize perfection and to find out what is morally right and wrong as Saint Paul explains in the first chapters of the letter to the Romans.

Even if the books of C.S. Lewis are not inerrant, most Christians agree he was an extraordinary man of God, had many genuine spiritual experiences and reached profound insights in God’s nature.

But God did not directly speak through him, he used his own culturally-conditioned concepts to write about the Almighty, which involves he also got God wrong at times.

I view the Apostle Paul and other Biblical writers in exactly the same way: like modern Christian writers, they had genuine experiences with and thoughts about God they wrote down.

Of course such an approach does not eliminate all difficulties.

For why did people pretending to be believers commit atrocities they justified theologically? Conservative Protestants (and former ones) focus on the problem of atrocities in the Old Testament, but this is only one part of a more general difficulty: the problem of divine hideness.

Christian conquistadors viewing the slaughter of native Indians as the divine Will or isolated tribes routinely sacrificing their children to their deities are troubling as well.
For in all these situations, God allowed countless humans to have noxious and murderous false beliefs about Him.

While I cannot address such a huge problem with a few lines, I believe that God is able to redeem the suffering of all the victims of religious violence who just have to choose Him for an everlasting bliss.

Whilst this does not solve the problem, I find that this largely mitigates it.

The sad testimony of the daughter of a Calvinist apologist

Rachael Slick, daughter of Calvinist fundamentalist Matt Slick, explained why she gave up her faith and became an atheist having no longer any contact with her parents.

I was born in 1992. My parents named me Rachael, after the biblical wife Jacob loved.

Rachael (right) with her parents



One of my earliest memories is of my dad’s gigantic old Bible. Its pages were falling out, its margins were scrawled over with notes, and the leather cover was unraveled in places from being so worn out. 
Every night, after we stacked up the dishes after our family dinner, he would bring it down and read a passage. I always requested something from the Book of Revelation or Genesis, because that’s where most of the interesting stories happened. After he was done, he’d close the Bible with a big WHUMP and turn to me.

“Now Rachael,” he would ask, “What is the hypostatic union?” 
and I would pipe back, “The two natures of Jesus!”


“What is pneumatology?”


The study of the holy spirit!

“What is the communicatio idiomatum?”


The communication of the properties in which the attributes of the two natures are ascribed to the single person!



Occasionally he would go to speak at churches about the value of apologetics and, the times I went along, he would call on me from the crowd and have me recite the answers to questions about theology. After I sat down, he would say, “My daughter knows more about theology than you do! You are not doing your jobs as Christians to stay educated and sharp in the faith.”



Conversation with him was a daily challenge. He would frequently make blatantly false statements — such as “purple dogs exist” — and force me to disprove him through debate. He would respond to things I said demanding technical accuracy, so that I had to narrow my definitions and my terms to give him the correct response. It was mind-twisting, but it encouraged extreme clarity of thought, critical thinking, and concise use of language. I remember all this beginning around the age of five.



Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most ‘godly’ student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.

I have two sisters, three and seven years younger than myself, and we were all homeschooled in a highly strict, regulated environment. Our A Beka schoolbooks taught the danger of evolution. Our friends were “good influences” on us, fellow homeschoolers whose mothers thought much alike. Obedience was paramount — if we did not respond immediately to being called, we were spanked ten to fifteen times with a strip of leather cut from the stuff they used to make shoe soles. Bad attitudes, lying, or slow obedience usually warranted the same — the slogan was “All the way, right away, and with a happy spirit.” We were extremely well-behaved children, and my dad would sometimes show us off to people he met in public by issuing commands that we automatically rushed to obey. The training was not just external; God commanded that our feelings and thoughts be pure, and this resulted in high self-discipline.

Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!

I recently came across this entry in a workbook I wrote when I was nine:


I’m hopeless.

Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.

I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?

At this point, my dad was working at a tech job during the day and working in his office, writing and researching, at night. He developed a huge collection of books, with bookshelves that spanned the wall, full of Bibles and notebooks filled with theology. This was the early stages of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.


It became a sort of game to watch him go “Mormon hunting”; if he saw them on the sidewalk, he’d pull up in the car to engage them in debate. After the Mormons visited our apartment a few times, they blacklisted us, and none of them ever visited us again. My dad was always very congenial to those he debated, and most viewed him as charismatic — though his debate tactics were ruthless and often more focused on efficiency than relationship-building.



We moved to Idaho when I was 12. My dad worked at Hewlett-Packard for a while but eventually made the big decision to make CARM his full-time career.



It was around this time my dad began receiving death threats — though I didn’t find this out until later. Someone was sending him graphic pictures, descriptive threats of rape against his family, and Google images of locations near our house. He got the FBI involved. They eventually determined it was someone from across the globe and likely posed no risk to us. My parents installed a home security system after that, but it only reinforced the “us vs. them” mentality he already held. My dad spoke frequently about the people “out to destroy him” and how his “enemies” were determined to obscure and twist the truth.



I wasn’t privy to a great deal of what went on behind the scenes at CARM — likely because I too young to fully understand it. A few times a year there would usually be an “event” that would capture most of his ire. For a while, it was the Universalists who were destroying his forums. Another time, it would be his arch-nemeses in the field of women in ministry or “troublemaking” atheists. Beyond these things, I knew little, except that I was immensely proud of my dad, who was smart, confident, and knew the Truth more than anybody else. I aspired to be like him — I would be a missionary, or an apologist! (Though not a pastor; I was a woman and thus unqualified for that field.) God was shaping my destiny.



As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed? 


Having a dad highly schooled in Christian apologetics meant that every question I brought up was explained away confidently and thoroughly. Many times, after our nightly Bible study, we would sit at the table after my Mom and sisters had left and debate, discuss, and dissect the theological questions I had. No stone was left unturned, and all my uncertainty was neatly packaged away.



Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty. 



There was one belief I held onto strongly, though — the one that eventually led to my undoing. I promised myself “I will never believe in Christianity simply because it feels right, otherwise I am no better than those in any other religion I debate. I must believe in Christianity because it is the Truth, and if it is ever proven otherwise, I must forsake it no matter how much it hurts.”



Twice, I attended protests. Once, in front of an abortion clinic, and another time, at the Twin Falls Mormon Temple. I went to public high school for a few months, where I brought the Bible and a picture of my parents for a show-and-tell speech of the things we valued most. I befriended Cody, a World of Warcraft nerd, for the sole purpose of telling him he was going to Hell and that he needed to repent. Every time I heard someone swear in the school hallways, I would close my eyes and pray.


I informed my parents that I wanted an arranged marriage because love was a far too emotional and dangerous prospect, and I trusted them to make an informed choice for my future far better than I ever could. My romantic exploits through puberty were negligible.



I ran away from home when I was 17 (due to reasons not pertinent to this post) and went to college the following year. I must have been a nightmare in my philosophy and religion classes, raising my hands at every opportunity and spouting off well-practiced arguments. Despite this, my philosophy professor loved me, and we would often meet after class, talking about my views on God. Even though he tried to direct me away from them, I was insistent about my beliefs: If God didn’t exist, where did morality come from? What about the beginning of the universe? Abiogenesis? There were too many questions left by the absence of God, and I could not believe in something (godlessness, in this case) that left me with so little closure. My certainty was my strength — I knew the answers when others did not.



This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.



I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness. The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.


Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked.



I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? 

I didn’t know it, but I was free.



For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death. I had trouble coping with the fact that my entire childhood education now essentially meant nothing — I had been schooled in a sham. I had to start from scratch in entering and learning about this secular world. Uncertainty was not something I was accustomed to feeling. Though I had left Christianity intellectually, my emotional beliefs had yet to catch up.



Eventually I worked up the courage to announce my choice on Facebook — which generated its own share of controversy. I’m fairly certain I broke my mother’s heart. Many people accused me of simply going through a rebellious stage and that I would come around soon. Countless people prayed for me.

I don’t know how my dad reacted to my deconversion; I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.



There was no miracle to cure me of the fear and pain, no God to turn to for comfort. But it did heal. Eventually. I only barely fear Hell now, and my instinct to pray only turns up on rare occasions. For a while now, I’ve been educating myself in science, a world far more uncertain than the one I left, but also far more honest.

Rachael Slick



Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful. 



Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

Personally, given the utter absurdity of Calvinism, it does not stun me that a person of her intelligence and honesty left behind this wicked  belief system.
I just find it depressing that she rejected Christianity altogether.

While I believe that creationism drives many people away from God, I think that doctrines presenting God as being morally evil are much more efficient for bringing new converts to anti-theism and I think that they plaid a decisive role in her case too.

It is worth noting that except  the problem of evil in the world (which is admittedly a tough nut to crack), all other arguments she mentioned are actually just good arguments against fundamentalism.

The Problem of Evil revisited by Lotharson

The Problem of Evil revisited by Lotharson 

Image

The question of why God or god(s) would allow evil to exist has been a very perplexing and troubling one for every believer attaching to them qualities such as goodness and benevolence ever since the time the Old Testament and parallel near-eastern myths were written.

Recently, British philosopher Jonathan Pierce, Counter-Apologist John and Justin Schieber from Reasonable Doubt, a podcast aiming at challenging the Reasonable Faith ministry of William Lane Craig and promoting “Godlessness”, have had a very interesting conversation about the problem posed by evil for theism before a virtual (white Belgian?) beer.   

Unlike many people deeply involved in the culture war raging between secularism and fundamentalism, the three intellectuals have a very respectful tone towards their opponents and develop pretty challenging arguments worthy of the consideration and attention of every thoroughly thinking religious person.

They should be really applauded for that approach and not resorting to the favorite techniques of village antitheists such as the heavy use of emotional bullying and ridiculing everyone not agreeing with their materialist worldview.

My agnostic Christianity

Before going into objections to the different arguments they presented I feel obliged to indicate where I’m coming from.  

I am an agnostic Christian, in the way Thom Stark uses this term, that is in the absence of good reasons to believe that theism or atheism is true I choose to hope there is a God.

I view the books contained within the Bible as being inspired in the same way books outside the Canon such as those of the Church fathers, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Wesley and C.S. Lewis are inspired: they depict us, to use Thom Stark’s wonderful expression, “human faces of God” that is man’s thoughts about and experiences with the divine. I don’t base my theology on allegedly inerrant Holy Scriptures but on the very idea that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God.

 

During this discussion of approximately 90 minutes, the three godless apologists do cover a lot of ground and raise many interesting questions which cannot be addressed within a single blog post.

I don’t agree with their objective Bayesian approach but also think that the evidential arguments for theism fall short of showing there is a God, tough I do believe they pose serious challenges for many popular forms of atheism out there, but these will be the topics of future discussions.

 Moral intuitions and God’s goodness as a heavenly father

They seem to rely on the belief that

1) Our moral intuitions are largely correct and

2) They can be applied to God who is supposed to be a heavenly Father far better any earthly father could ever be.

 

While I strongly doubt that step 1) can be taken by naturalists, this is certainly a key-element of the theology of Jesus and Paul and many writers of the Old Testament. But I think then that all our moral intuitions should be taken into consideration and not only those related to pleasure and pain as evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt discovered liberals typically do.

Step 2) is extremely important to prevent us from developing abhorrent theologies, like God issuing arbitrary commands about homosexuality even if it is neither harmful for the individual nor for society.

I utterly reject theistic voluntarism, the idea that whatever God wills is good, for this can lead and indeed leads to many absurd and atrocious beliefs such as God predetermining the largest part of mankind to eternally burn in Hell.

Interestingly at one point the three atheists seem to recognize that the problem of evil could be greatly diminished if the doctrine of hell is given up and they jokingly told each other that it would be already a victory in and of itself if they could push Christians to let go of „abhorrent“ teachings. Actually, it is clearly one of the main purposes of my blog to make other Christians deeply think about the implications of noxious doctrines, so we seem to have at least one goal in common.

 

That said, I do believe it is crucial to take into account the particularities of God’s position and the perspective of eternity before drawing any analogy with an earthly father.

 Free will, soul making, Skeptical theism

I believe that the problem of evil is extremely diverse and that the various theistic responses (such as the soul-making defense, the free-will defense and Skeptical theism) are all valid in their own rights and complement each other.

Generally I consider it extremely likely that God does have good reasons to limit Himself and not only allow free will in His creation but also randomness as philosophers Peter Van Inwagen described, in the same way I find computer simulations with random numbers far more interesting than deterministic ones. Such a position is compatible with Open Theism and some forms of divine omniscience.

And if this is true, the question is no longer “why did God allow such and such specific evils?” but “why did God choose to create a universe with such properties and features in spite of all the bad consequences?”

 Justin Schieber and the divine lies argument

 This is certainly no easy question and it would be completely foolish for me to come up with more than modest indications about possible solutions. This leads us to the question of Skeptical Theism (ST), according to which there are at least some evils humans are in no position to explain or reconcile with the infinite goodness of God.

Unlike Jon Pierce, Justin Schieber does believe that if theism is true ST is very likely and complained about the horrible ordeal inflicted on him to have to defend a position apparently friendly to theism against the objections of Pierce.

But he then mentioned his interesting Divine Lie Argument (DLA) according to which ST entails the clear possibility that God might be lying to us within Scripture for unknown reasons.

I certainly believe this undermines the Evangelical belief we need an inerrant Bible from God to know how He is and how we should behave.

I reject those assumptions and take the view we can objectively recognize goodness (albeit in an imperfect way) and know that God has to be good by His very nature as a perfect being. I don’t believe God speaks to us through the books of the Biblical canon more than he speaks to us through the books of C.S. Lewis or Ellen White and believe, like the apostle Paul expressed it in Athens, that even pagan authors can get quite a few things right about God.

Eternal happiness in heaven

I think that the perspective of eternity certainly changes the extent of the problem of evil in a radical way. For example let us consider the following scenarios:

Image

A. there is no afterlife. Leon is a small Tutsi boy living in Rwanda in 1994. In May his village gets attacked, his family is captured and he dies under an atrocious pain after having seen his parents being tortured and passing away in a very gruesome way. He ceases to exist.
God could have created the universe in a different manner to avoid this but He didn’t.

 

B. there is a blissful afterlife offered to everyone. Leon is a small Tutsi boy living in Rwanda in 1994. In May his village gets attacked, his family is captured and he dies under an atrocious pain after having seen his parents being tortured and passing away in a very gruesome way. He ushers into the presence of God. He quickly recovers from his pain and live happily with his parents in the presence of God during 100, 1000, 1000000, 100000000000, 10000000000000000000000000… years.
God could have created the universe in a different manner to avoid this but He didn’t.

  

Clearly, both scenarios should be troubling for every theist. But the assertion that they are almost equally problematic for the goodness of God is an extraordinary claim.

 

Utilitarianism is a moral theory very popular among atheists according to which the good is ultimately reducible to what increases the pleasure and reduce the pain of the greatest number of persons.

Every moral value which cannot be deduced from this basic principle is rejected as being illusory.

The extent of the evil of a free agent is identical to the extent of his failure to respect this rule. But if God is going to offer eternal life to everyone having suffered between one and hundred years, his moral culpability equals zero since this is the clear result of dividing a finite number by infinity.

So our three atheist apologists need to argue against utilitarianism and show why we ought to reject this theory before saying that the problem of evil is a death blow for every form of theism.

Given all the facts I’ve mentionned, I think we’ve good grounds for thinking there really are not-implausible ways for God to be morally perfect why allowing evils we cannot comprehend.

Of course, I do struggle emotionally a lot with some horrible and apparently absurd things our world contains and it would be a lie to say I don’t seriously call into question either the existence or the goodness of God, like countless characters of the Bible have done.

   Materialism, qualia, moral naturalism

Finally I cannot help but notice that the most popular (and perhaps the only plausible) form of naturalism, namely Reductive Materialism (RM) provides us with a terrible foundation for real objective moral values.

Jonathan Pierce mentioned the possibility that God would create philosophical zombies, that is beings acting exactly like humans but lacking any subjective experience, to be bad people and fill out the entire hell. Fair enough, especially if one believes in divine determinism. But this thought experience shows us a huge (and probably insurmountable) difficulty for Reductive Materialism: making sense of the moral evilness of pain.

According to RM, pain is identical to chemical and physical reactions and processes taking place in a brain-like structure. But why should thoseparticular processes have a greater moral significance than the movements of electrons within my computer?

Since in a materialist framework, pain is defined as being these particular processes, saying they are morally significant because they are painful is akin to saying that these particular processes are a moral concern because they are these particular processes.

But I believe that moral naturalism faces a much greater challenge, namely the identification of moral values with material objects.

Saying that the moral truth “A man should never rape a woman“ is identical to a bunch of elementary particles sounds utterly absurd to me.

To conclude I cannot let unmentioned the hugest and most scandalous mistake they did at the very beginning of the video. They dared tell us that God smoking weed could be an explanation for all the mess we see around us.

That’s bullshit.
I and many fellow French citizens have smoked Cannabis as we were teenagers and most of us were quite capable of performing well in many respects while being really high. 

If this post were to attain one thing, this should be leading them to give up their prejudices concerning pot. I do hope that in their next shows and videos they will cease smearing the goddess Marihuana and say instead “God is probably an abuser of LSD“, “God drinks one bottle of Vodka a day“ or „God cannot think clearly, because due to His omniscience He has no other choice than hearing every day George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Dick Cheney, William Demski (and me for that matter) speaking and thinking during hours.“

Image

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

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)