Did Jesus endorse atrocities?

Deutsche Version: Hat Jesus Greueltaten gut gehiessen?

Youtube Version

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 Arguably, two of the favorite verses of fundamentalists and antitheists alike are:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

It is generally thought that Jesus agreed with everything standing in the Old Testament, like the genocide of the Amalekites, the wives of dead soldiers being killed by the Israelites being forced to marry the murderers of their husbands, adulterers being put to death, and so on and so forth.

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I don’t view the Bible as a set of truths having fallen from Heaven, but as a human book describing the experience (or lack thereof) of real people with God. But they wrote down their thoughts and experiences using their worldview and their Ancient-Near-Eastern understanding.
Without denigrating these people, it is a fact they were both materially and morally primitive. Before judging the moral character of an individual, it is always indispensable to study his or her worldview and to delve into the historical context she led her life. Many self-righteous indignation about the deeds of Mahomed stem from the unwillingness to follow this basic principle.

Now, back to our present concern. I believe that in Jesus, God lived, died and rose from the dead. But in order for him to be fully human and not some kind of super-spirits like many Gnostics thought, he had to give up his all-power, his omniscience (all-knowledge), also with respect to spiritual and moral issues. I know this might sound blasphemous to quite few of my readers, but asserting the contrary would turn Jesus into a super-human.

As a human being, Jesus shared the worldview and presuppositions of the conservative Jewish society where he was raised.
This is why his treatment of women, while quite normal for our modern minds, was truly revolutionary in his particular context.
When trying to judge Jesus’s moral character, most Skeptics tend to interpret literally what he said in order to make it sound as negative as possible, even if it contradicts other verses.

Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that Jesus really said these very things mentionned at the beginning of the article. Some theologians think the passage might have been added by Mattew to fit the needs of the early Jewish Christian communities, but I think this text is at home in the context of the sermon on the mount.

According to most antitheists, the litteral interpretation is the right one, and Jesus wished adultery women and disobedient children to be stoned, and thought genocides could be great.
But why did the same Jesus also say:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…”

After all, he was referring to the very same Mosaic tradition he allegedly considered to be inerrant.

One possibility is certainly that Jesus was inconsistent and contradicted himself: he didn’t realize the consequences of holding fast to the Torah as he preached.
To my mind, a better interpretation is that Jesus saw the love for God and for one’s neighbor as being not only the highest command of the law, but its fulfillment, its very reason of being.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

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In that respect, Jesus was very progressive if he thought that certain aspects of the Law didn’t promote this high goal.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.
Matthew 19:8

When all his sayings are considered, it seems likely that Jesus meant that higher purpose as the accomplishment of the law.
Of course, it is also probable that the conservative Jewish context he grew up in prevented him from entertaining the thought that the Torah (and other non-canonical traditions) contained mistakes, but this is debatable.

Über die Kunst, herauszupicken

English version: on the art of picking and choosing.    Feel free to comment there!

Eine der beliebtesten Kritiken von christlichen Fundamentalisten und militanten Atheisten zugleich gegen liberale und progressive Christen ist die Behauptung, sie picken die Versen heraus, die sie mögen, während sie die anderen ignorieren.

Ein offensichtliches Problem ist, dass jeder Christ zwangsläufig manche Versen glaubt während er andere ignoriert. Dies ist der Fall, weil die Bibel hoffnungslos widersprüchlich ist, und Menschen eine riesige Schwierigkeit haben, zwei widersprüchliche Glauben in ihrem Geist gleichzeitig zu haben.

Man kann nicht an kollektive Strafe glauben, UND dass Kinder nie für die Sünden ihrer Eltern bestraft werden dürfen, DASS man seinen Feind hassen UND lieben soll, dass Gott den Weg des Übeltäters vorbereitet und Ihm seine Missetaten vorwerfen wird, dass Gott seine Pläne verändert und nicht verändert, und so weiter und so fort.

Wütende Atheisten, die von ihrer fundamentalistischen Vergangenheit angeekelt sind, glauben generell, dass DER Gott der Bibel  ein böses, grauenhaftes Monster ist.

Mit ihrem Glauben glückliche Evangelikalen glauben dagegen, dass DER Gott der Bibel allliebend und wundervoll ist.

Ich glaube, dass beide Seiten sich völlig irren, weil DER Gott der Bibel nicht existiert. Was wir finden sind unterschiedliche Götter IN der Bibel,

Ich glaube, dass es ein simples Kriterium gibt, das man immer verwenden kann, um etwas in der Bibel abzulehnen, das Gott zugeschrieben wurde.

1)     Gott muss notwendigerweise ein perfektes Wesen sein, zumindest viel netter, liebender und gerechter, als wir sind.

2)    Trotz all ihren Makels sind Menschen wohl fähig, Güte und Perfektion zu erkennen (und dies macht uns schuldig, wie Paulus es in Römer 2 ausdrückte).

Es bedeutet, dass wir ziemlich sicher sein können, dass er keinen Völkermord wie im Buch Joshua angeordnet hat.

Aber was, wenn wir eine nette Geschichte im AT finden, wo zum Beispiel Gott es zugelassen hat, dass Joseph durch seine Brüder entführt wurde, damit er seine Familie Jahre später retten konnte? Wenn wir die (später offenbarte) Hoffnung auf ein Leben nach dem Tod betrachtet, scheint mir diese Geschichte mit Gottes Vollkommenheit völlig kompatibel zu sein.
Können wir deswegen daraus schliessen, dass es historisch echt war?

Nein, denn so vorzugehen wäre absurd. Wir können nur sagen, dass eine solche göttliche Beschreibung mit Seiner perfekten Natur im Einklang ist und dass man diesen Text benutzen kann, um selber geistlich aufgebaut zu werden.

Die Bibel ist eine Versammlung von religiösen Büchern (die auch Historie enthalten können), wobei Menschen ihre Gedanken und Erfahrungen mit dem Göttlichen niedergeschrieben haben, auf dieselbe Weise, wie nicht kanonische Schreiber es getan haben.

Ich lese generell die Bibel auf die selbe Weise, wie ich Bücher von den Vätern der frühen Kirche, Luther, Ellen White, Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Greg Boyd und so weiter und so fort. lese.

Auf meinen beiden obigen Kriterien basierend, schätze ich ihre Erfahrungen und Gedanken ein, und wende ihre Einsichten auf mein eigenes Wandeln mit Gott an.

Nach Monaten einer sich fort entwickelnden  Theologie ist dies meine aktuelle Sicht der Bibel: kein Satz von Gesetzen und Fakten über das Universum und Gott, aber die “menschlichen Gesichter von Gott”, um den wundervollen Ausdruck von Thom Stark zu benutzen.

Ich glaube wirklich, dass Gott sich der Menschheit und den alten Hebräern auf eine besondere Weise offenbart hat, aber Er tat so auf die selbe Weise, wie Er sich Missionaren in Afrika oder Martin Luther vor einigen Jahrhunderten offenbarte.

Und während ich glaube, dass wir gute Gründe haben, den reduktiven Materialismus abzulehnen, und an eine Transzendenz zu glauben, weiss ich nicht, ob das Christentum wahr ist oder nicht.
Gemäß meiner eigenen Definition bedeutet Glaube Hoffnung, eine Hoffnung auf einen guten Gott, der letzgültig das Übel für immer besiegen wird.

Und WENN dieser Gott existiert, erscheint es mir höchstwahrscheinlich, dass Er sich durch das Leben, Tod und Auferstehung von Jesus von Nazareth offenbart hat.

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The Definition of Christianity

Deutsche Version: die Definition des Christentums .

Youtube Version

The Definition of Christianity 

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The definition of what it means to be a Christian can be quite tricky for many persons. Certain conservative definitions such as :
A Christian is someone believing in the entire Bible“ or

A Christian is someone going to the holy Mass every Sunday and taking all sacraments

are extremely reductive and exclude many people who have profound experiences with Jesus while not fulfilling the above definitions.

I will modestly propose a definition allowing us to encompass the whole Christendom:

„A Christian is someone who follows and worships a perfectly good God who revealed his true face through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.“

This is certainly compatible with the two definitions mentioned above but it is not limited to them.

What to think now of the numerous German Protestant pastors who like Jesus a historical person but don’t believe in a personal God and go sometimes as far as denying the existence of any afterlife?

I would consider them as „atheists for Jesus“, they might be extraordinarily good persons and I see no reason why they won’t spend the whole eternity with God and have a very good surprise after having passed away.

But I cannot call them Christians.

Now, I’d love to hear the criticism and comments from people having various perspectives on those topics.

 

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Was Jesus just your average Joe?

Deutsche Version

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Many people skeptical of the truth of the Christian faith hold fast on the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was just an ordinary man among many others.

According to them, the origin of the Christian faith can be understood as follows:

1) After the death of Jesus the disciples experienced wonderful hallucinations which made them believe he rose from the dead

2) They didn’t believe in an empty tomb, this aspect was completely irrelevant for them

3) Paul held the same belief

4) Later writers made up stories about the honorary burial of Jesus and the empty grave

There are many not-implausible, contradictory theories about the historical Jesus which are hard to evaluate owing to the lack of hard data.

But I believe this kind of scenarios can be ruled out as being unlikely.

There were after and before Jesus time quite a few Jewish apocalyptic prophets who suffered an atrocious death as martyrs. Why did none of their followers develop a faith in the resurrection of their master? Why did none of them develop a faith that their master was God Himself?

Both aspects were present within the early Church very soon after the death of Jesus.

So I believe that the minimal conclusion that there is something special about Jesus of Nazareth is warranted.

Further conclusions are going to be hugely dependent on the presuppositions of one’s worldview.

 

 

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On the Definition and Meaningfulness of Progressive Christianity

Deutsche Version: Über die Definition und Bedeutsamkeit vom progressiven Christentum 

Youtube version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1)      God has necessarily to be a perfect being

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

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

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

 

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On the burden of proof of the atheist

Deutsche Version: von der Beweislast des Atheisten

Beweislast

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

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

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

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

 

 

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