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 Definition und Bedeutsamkeit vom progressiven Christentum / On the Definition and Meaningfulness of Progressive Christianity

English version: On the Definition and Meaningfulness of Progressive Christianity.  Feel free to comment there at any moment!

Hier will ich meine eigenen Gedanken über die Definition des progressiven Christentums geben, wie ich diesen Ausdruck verstehe und auf mich selber anwende.

Grundsätzlich (und mit einer gewissen Übervereinfachung) glauben die meisten Evangelikalen, dass die Bibel das irrtumslose, unfehlbare Wort Gottes und das einzige Fundament des Christentums ist.

Natürlich gibt es Unterschiede in der Art und Weise, wie Unfehlbarkeit verstanden wird, und manche Auffassungen sind viel raffinierter als andere.

Dennoch sind die meisten Evangelikalen einverstanden, dass was immer in der Bibel steht fromm geglaubt werden muss, sogar wenn es nicht wenige von ihnen zum Schluss führt, dass Völkermorde und das Erwürgen von Säuglingen manchmal völlig in Ordnung sind, oder dass Gott viele Menschen dazu vorherbestimmt hat, in die Hölle zu landen, wo sie ewiglich für Sünden leiden werden, die Er selber im Voraus verursacht hatte.

Aber so entkommt man der folgenden Frage nicht: wenn wir herausfinden, dass der Gott einer irrtumslosen Bibel nicht nur NICHT unseren größten, schönsten ethischen Idealen überlegen ist, sondern auch ihnen unendlich unterlegen ist, und wenn wir (der Diskussion halber) annehmen, dass dieses Wesen real ist, warum sollten wir ihn anbeten?

Und warum sollten wir ihn sowieso “Gott” nennen?

Meiner Meinung nach beginnen sowohl das progressive als auch das liberale Christentum mit der Erkenntnis, dass es weder epistemologisch noch moralisch erlaubt ist, alles in unseren heiligen Lieblingsbüchern zu glauben, ohne sich zuerst einem Realitätscheck zu unterziehen.

Unser Glaube sollte immer neue Tatsachen aus der äußeren Welt und unseren unbestreitbaren moralischen Intuitionen mit offenen Armen empfangen, um unsere theologischen Lehren zu korrigieren und vielleicht sogar aufzugeben.

Wenn wir es nicht tun, können wir keine schlüssige Antwort auf Sam Harris Behauptung aufbringen, dass religiöse Menschen systematisch den Hals jedes rothaarigen Mädels abschneiden würden, falls Gott es in ihren heiligen Schriften befehlen würde.

Liberale Christen glauben, dass Wunder unmöglich (oder zumindest äußerst unwahrscheinlich) sind und dass wir die Auferstehung als eine psychologische Erfahrung der ersten Jünger interpretieren sollten. Viele gehen sehr weit und behaupten, dass Gott nicht persönlich sein kann, sogar als ein entfernter Hausherr, und eine Art von Energie oder unpersönlichem Konzept sein muss.

Im Gegensatz zu ihnen glauben progressive Christen an die Realität einer übernatürlichen Welt, oder sind zumindest offen dafür (wie in meinem Fall).

Aber in vielen Hinsichten sehen sie nicht den christlichen Glauben als etwas festes und unveränderbares, sondern gehen davon aus, dass er sich stetig weiter entwickelt, wenn neue Daten hereinkommen, um unsere Lehren zu korrigieren und zu verbessern.

Dies wirft eine interessante Frage auf: wenn wir die Irrtumslosigkeit der Bibel aufgegeben haben, wie können wir den Unterschied zwischen wahren und falschen Lehren über Gott machen?

Während ich nicht behaupten kann, für jeden selbst ernannten progressiven Christen zu sprechen, würde meine Antwort folgendermaßen lauten:

1)      Gott ist notwendigerweise ein perfektes Wesen

2)     Trotz all ihrer Unzulänglichkeiten sind Menschen völlig fähig, Güte und Vollkommenheit zu erkennen (und es ist was uns schuldig macht, wie Paulus es in Römer 2 ausgedrückt hat).

Nun würde ich sehr gern wissen, was Sie darüber denken, hoffentlich werden wir eine angenehme Konversation haben!

Bitte, halten Sie sich stets vor Augen, dass Sie frei sind, zu jedem Zeitpunkt beim jeden Posten zu kommentieren!

 

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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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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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