Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Faith, Logic and Reason

I made some people angry this past weekend, with some outraged interlocutors asking how dare I question their Christianity, etc.
 
Well, first off, it’s a debate, not a witch trial, and I am not an inquisitor.

Secondly, I am in no position to question anyone’s legitimacy before God. I am a sinful man humbly working out my salvation "in fear and trembling," but I do enjoy a debate, especially with self-identified Christians who stake out a position in direct opposition to something printed in the Bible in black and white.

The Bible plainly states in many OT and NT passages that homosexuality is a sin, right up there with murder, stealing, adultery, slave trading, prostitution and spreading lies about others. I wrote not to condemn, but to hear how the dissenters justified their position.

I hate to throw more gasoline on the fire, but I have a few final points to make, and as always I invite flaming criticism.

God is Intolerant and He Cares Nothing for Man's Wisdom

Christianity is not Zen Buddhism. God revealed himself and his laws, and asked humans to cooperate in spreading his message. It's not a logic puzzle--it is a list of rules on how to behave so society can grow and prosper. Yes, there is room for debate about such issues as what constitutes a violation of the Sabbath, or how much support should you provide to your parents in their old age, or if God meant those rules for everybody for all time, or for just that one group of people.

Jesus told that one rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor, but he interacted with other rich people without telling them that. So was it a universal command? Or was it directed just at that man?

But other issues are pretty iron-clad. Adultery ain't right. Yes, in Abrahamic times it went on, sometimes with God's apparent approval, but he issued a pretty clear statement to Moses when he engraved those tablets. There's just no way to make adultery OK.

Jesus was not tolerant

I also want to dispel the myth that Jesus was tolerant. He was not. Go read his words. He loved everyone and was always reaching out, not to pat a sinner on the back and tell them "it's all cool," but to embrace them and pull them back to the bosom of God. He forgave sins that the religious authorities at the time said could not be forgiven so easily, but then he left the repentant sinner with the admonition to sin no more. Inherent in Christ's forgiveness is a rejection of one's sinful ways.

Logic

Various interlocutors brought up logic. OK. It is illogical to impugn the Bible and then use it as a basis for your argument.

A common line of argumentation is to say God gave people boils on their backsides, or ordered the Jews to slaughter their enemies and kill homosexuals, so he's bloodthirsty or crazy, and anyway we don't follow his most murderous laws anymore, just the "civilized" ones.

First off, those are historical accounts of a specific time and place. God did not issue a universal commandment to kill all your enemies or to put homosexuals or adulterers to death. There is no contradiction in God's laws if you understand the context.


Also, such farragoes casts stones upon the attackers' faith and basis of argumentation as well. If God is crazy or bloodthirsty and his book is riddled with error and inconsistency, why are you worshiping him?

Still a sin, but not punishable by death...

Homosexuality and prostitution are mentioned in other places besides Leviticus as sinful and keeping one from entering God’s kingdom, but without the Levitical death penalty. Indeed, Jesus stopped the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, yet he still commanded her to sin no more. 

Using logic and our light of reason, this leads us to conclude that the act is still sinful, but that it is no longer punishable by death, so the death decree must have applied specifically to the Hebrews as they left Egypt and entered into Canaan. Paul’s restatement of these Old Testament prohibitions but without the death penalties further reinforces this conclusion.

Restating a Biblical truth is not a tautology...

FreeThinke accused me of employing tautologies, which was actually a category error on his part. God's laws conform to nature and a right ordering of society, so in a sense they are self-evident. But they are not mathematical theorems to be proved; they are commands from Our Creator. How is "Love your enemies" logical? It is not a tautology to say murder is wrong because God said so. You are simply restating what God has commanded.

Be Brave! Defy your Creator!

"Times have changed," seems to be the other common argument for reinterpreting God's word. Did anyone hear him say "Go ye forth and reinterpret my words based upon eroding human morality!"

Of course not!  This approach is as cowardly as it is specious. It is making God in our own image to satisfy ourselves instead of having the courage to stand up in defiance of Him and his commands.

I'm not making a religious argument here, but an evidentiary one. God doesn't think xyz is a sin anymore? Where is your proof?

How do you know?

Religious arguments rarely get anywhere because religion itself is outside the realm of pure reason, but we nonetheless use logic and inferences to draw conclusions from what we read.  Indeed, parts of the Bible could be wrong (I don't believe so), so I understand people making that point.  

Now, I ask you, which parts?  And what leads you to that conclusion?  Does it shake your faith in other parts?  In God himself?  Do you think it matters?

Now, as a peace offering, I invite you to Read an article by America's Rabbi, Shmuley Boteach:  My Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality

72 comments:

Ducky's here said...

Christianity is not Zen Buddhism.

--------
So what?

Does that lessen the legitimacy of Buddhism?

Ducky's here said...

Jesus told that one rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor, but he interacted with other rich people without telling them that. So was it a universal command? Or was it directed just at that man?

----
Pretty pedantic.

But then Jesus said NOTHING about homosexuality.

Homosexuality is only mentioned by Paul, who was probably in the closet and the O.T. which has been proven to be a series of lies told by a Canaanite splinter group trying to get street cred.

Ducky's here said...

Why are the religious fundamentalists so obsessed with homosexuality?

The fact that their obsession makes them look like utter fools turns people deaf to what is of value in their witness.

Is someone protesting too much?

The Constitutional Insurgent said...

I am interested in the notion that some of God's commandments were meant for a specific time and place, when in fact as we read the Bible [in black and white] it offers no such stipulation...but rather, the wording lends itself as a timeless decree.

Slavery is fairly well regulated for Israelite and non-Israelite, but man had the audacity to proclaim it against our moral code [rightly so of course].

Where a decree appears to be concrete and timeless, how then can man translate them into 'peculiarities of a bygone age'?

jez said...

"The Bible plainly states in many OT and NT passages that homosexuality is a sin"

I'd hoped to see more of a discussion about translation and/or the authority of Paul in the NT.

The OT is clear in some places but honestly I find much of it to be ambiguous. Am I supposed to understand that Lot did a good thing by offering his virgin daughters, for example? The idea that this story offers any sort of moral clarity is genuinely alien to me.

Leviticus is clear, but much of its moral teaching has been discarded even among believers, and there's no sense whatsoever that non-believers should take any notice. Clearly homosexuality is being treated like a special case. Why?

"[xianity] is a list of rules on how to behave so society can grow and prosper"

That's a better description of judaism. I'd say that xianity is a slave religion, it's remarkably unconcerned with how to run your society. It's not entirely coincidental that it spread so successfully through the Roman empire.

"he issued a pretty clear statement to Moses when he engraved those tablets"

it is tempting to make an idol out of those tablets, isn't it? What is the point of recording that the originals were broken in a pique of rage, if not to illustrate the imperfection of the written Word?

That said,
"There's just no way to make adultery OK."
is certainly true.

I think that almost all but the most puritanical christians play around a little with the graven image / likeness commandment.

"It is illogical to impugn the Bible and then use it as a basis for your argument."

I disagree, but I haven't seen in these comments much of the documentary work that would be the rational basis for choosing what to accept in from a flawed bible. Of course faith is not wholly rational, and they prefer to use supernatural guidance to make these decisions.

Unfortunately with the documentary approach, the "cast the first stone" episode might be one of the first to go. But it's so darned theologically important...

"...[God]'s bloodthirsty or crazy, and anyway we don't follow his most murderous laws anymore, just the "civilized" ones."

As a secular guy who has to share a planet with you monotheists, this is the kind of "sloppiness" that I like! This is about the only thing that makes xianity superior to some of the others. Don't rock the boat, SF!

"There is no contradiction in God's laws if you understand the context."

Easy to hand wave, maybe it's harder to deliver the goods? I still have yet to see a decent scriptual rebuttal to the Westboro Baptist church. That should be easy.

"If God is crazy or bloodthirsty ... why are you worshiping him?"

Please answer that. Do you think he isn't bloodthirsty? How do you characterise His genocides?

"Paul’s restatement of these Old Testament prohibitions but without the death penalties further reinforces this conclusion."

did Paul prescribe penalties for anything? Paul was the underdog, he wasn't in any position to punish anyone, except with a strongly worded letter.

"How is "Love your enemies" logical?"

Or possible, even? Given your military experience, you probably have more insight into the concept of "enemy" than I do.

Silverfiddle said...

Constitutional, as I say in the piece, I base the "time and place" upon it being mentioned in other areas of the Bible, but without the death penalty. As I said, Jesus himself told them to put down the stones, but he still told her adultery was wrong, forgave her for it, and told her not to do it anymore.

So, I'm not saying that is ironclad proof, but using logic and reason, what once could reasonably conclude that Jesus fulfilled the law by later taking on the death himself, but what was a sin still remains a sin.

Jez, I agree this is way too complex to address in a blog post. I am specifically concerned with reason and logic and how it works with faith, but even that is too large a subject...

The slavery issue is a valid point of inquiry. God did not command it as he did dietary laws and behavior, but he did issue commands on how to treat slaves. Thus, if man decides to abolish slavery, they are not going against God's law.

Also, slavery was different back then. Enslaving members of a decimated tribe was actually a kind of jobs program, giving them food and shelter. Not making it OK, but slavery was the product of clashes of tribes, or of poor people from other lands.

A rebuttal to Westboro? Did Jesus hate any of the sinners he encountered? No.

Did anyone go see the Rabbi Boteach article?

Always On Watch said...

I am in no position to question anyone’s legitimacy before God.

The older I get, the more I appreciate what a wise man my father was!

He was a man of few words. In fact, when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, the word "economical" appeared on our spelling/vocabulary list, and we had to write our own sentence for each word. I wrote: "My father is economical with words."

Anyway, my father's spiritual advice went thus, which he said several times with slight changes in wording but always with the same meaning: "I have enough trouble taking care of my own soul. It's not my business to take care of YOURS."

Damn. I miss my dad.

I've got to figure out how to use my scanner so that I can post a few pictures of him! The physical resemblance between Dad and Humphrey Bogart was eerie. For any who are curious about me, I resemble Dad enough for it to be obvious that I am his daughter; some of Mom is in there too, of course.

Thersites said...

What is the point of recording that the originals were broken in a pique of rage, if not to illustrate the imperfection of the written Word?

The imperfection of the written word? Nope (watch the end video).

jez said...

"Did anyone go see the Rabbi Boteach article?"

No, it requires a subscription.

Looks like you can get it here...
http://www.shmuley.com/news/details/my_jewish_perspective_on_homosexuality/

but I haven't read it yet.

FreeThinke said...

I've seen and heard the fat, pompous, heavily-bearded, domineering Schmuly on TV several times. I find him an obnoxious, arrogant, know-it-all. I find all people who presume to know what is and is not good for all people obnoxious.

~ FreeThinke

Thersites said...

btw - I do agree with you regarding the "imperfection" of the written word....

Jowett summary of Plato's "Phaedrus"

Enough of the art of speaking; let us now proceed to consider the true use of writing. There is an old Egyptian tale of Theuth, the inventor of writing, showing his invention to the god Thamus, who told him that he would only spoil men's memories and take away their understandings. From this tale, of which young Athens will probably make fun, may be gathered the lesson that writing is inferior to speech. For it is like a picture, which can give no answer to a question, and has only a deceitful likeness of a living creature. It has no power of adaptation, but uses the same words for all. It is not a legitimate son of knowledge, but a bastard, and when an attack is made upon this bastard neither parent nor anyone else is there to defend it. The husbandman will not seriously incline to sow his seed in such a hot-bed or garden of Adonis; he will rather sow in the natural soil of the human soul which has depth of earth; and he will anticipate the inner growth of the mind, by writing only, if at all, as a remedy against old age. The natural process will be far nobler, and will bring forth fruit in the minds of others as well as in his own.

Thersites said...

I find all people who presume to know what is and is not good for all people obnoxious.

Then you find ALL living people obnoxious.

Genesis 2:15-17

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Nietzsche, WtP 493 (1885)

Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live. The value for life is ultimately decisive.

Biblical truth?

conservativesonfire said...

Humans are often born with abnormalities; such as, siamese twins, down syndrom, as albinos, and many other abnormalities including being homosexual. We wouldn't consider it a sin to be a siamese twin or an albino or to have down syndrom. Why would we think that homosexuality is a sin? Because in biblical times, those that tried to write down what they interpeeted God's message to be, did not know that homosexuality was an abnormality of birth and assumedd that God wwould be against it.

Scotty said...

Ducky:But then Jesus said NOTHING about homosexuality.

He didn't have to. Context, Ducky. Jesus came to the Jews first, Jews that were raised to know God's laws. He didn't have to say anything about homosexuality as they(the Jews) already knew it was a sin.

Thersites said...

It's not that it's a "sin". Violate the prohibitions, and as Genesis states, "and you will surely die."

AIDS much?

Silverfiddle said...

Jez: Thanks for the heads up on the article.

Looks like I fell for one of those one-time-good-deals. I couldn't access it today either.

Link updated.


Freethinke: Close your ears and go "lalalala" and you may miss something worthwhile.

Rational Nation USA said...

Ah, more debate on faith, reaon, and logic. Meanwhile Rome is burning. Fascinating indeed.

But, as long as there is faith, often absent reason or logic we shall be fine.

Just follow the "Good Book."

Rational Nation USA said...

Ah, more debate on faith, reaon, and logic. Meanwhile Rome is burning. Fascinating indeed.

But, as long as there is faith, often absent reason or logic we shall be fine.

Just follow the "Good Book."

Rational Nation USA said...

Ah, more debate on faith, reaon, and logic. Meanwhile Rome is burning. Fascinating indeed.

But, as long as there is faith, often absent reason or logic we shall be fine.

Just follow the "Good Book."

Rational Nation USA said...

Ah, more debate on faith, reaon, and logic. Meanwhile Rome is burning. Fascinating indeed.

But, as long as there is faith, often absent reason or logic we shall be fine.

Just follow the "Good Book."

Rational Nation USA said...

Ah, more debate on faith, reaon, and logic. Meanwhile Rome is burning. Fascinating indeed.

But, as long as there is faith, often absent reason or logic we shall be fine.

Just follow the "Good Book."

Ducky's here said...

Chris Hedges on the limits or reason

We must find our own epiphanies, ladies and gentlemen.

Z said...

SF, I'm not sure your point's being mostly missed on purpose or what......saying the fact that "Christianity is not Zen Buddhism" does not slam Zen Buddhism in any sense of your statement.

You're talking BIBLE here, to whoever wants to read it obviously reminding us of God's wrath and righteousness and Jesus' intolerance. Understanding this makes the true love of the Gospel more understandable (much more)and even more reassuring.

Nobody has to believe the Scripture.....NO PROBLEM! That's anybody's prerogative! You're not asking anybody to....but only to know, to realize that, for Christians, Scripture is given for us to better enjoy life and to get such a deeper meaning from it now... and then to even participate in His Kingdom for eternity... I admire your pursuing this topic.

Rational Nation: "But, as long as there is faith, often absent reason or logic we shall be fine."

Now you're getting it! :-) And, trust me, I felt exactly like you do once. Exactly.
But, of course, none of us MUST have faith.
SF's not insisting, nobody's insisting.......
somebody's always knocking, though.

Z said...

Rational...I wrote to you, above, that "I felt exactly like you do once. Exactly."
That's just truth, I don't in ANY way mean to be patronizing and what I said could smack of it. At least I found it patronizing in the past. Truly, that's not my intent; I just want you to know I do understand. And I respect your right to believe or not to believe. We all deserve that respect.
THanks.

Fredd said...

Silver:

You truly seem to enjoy poking sticks into beehives.

Theological arguments always end up in stalemates, and everybody always point at the other's text, note contradictions, and conclude that the entire book is therefore crap.

Several places in the OT, starting with Exodus 21:24 says an 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' and the NT in Matthew 5:39recommends 'turning the other cheek,' oldest dumb argument there is concluding that the Bible is irrelevant.

Keep poking those beehives, Silver. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, don't know if any of the other commenters here read your link to the Rabbi's column, but thank you for posting it. He points out the difference between moral and religious sin, and about the balance of morality and sin as opposed to the unrealistic expectation that everyone can live up to all Biblical law in entirety.

JMJ

Rational Nation USA said...

Z - Indeed I knew what you were saying, and I did NOT consider it patronizing.

Z said...

JMJ: "the unrealistic expectation that everyone can live up to all Biblical law in entirety."
Thankfully, a believing CHristian's first good news (or second, I guess, now that I think of it) is that no Christian has to "live up to" anything, particularly Biblical law in its entirety.
I think this is a point people really get stuck on and I can't blame them.

Leticia said...

What you described and ticked off many "Christians" is called "Moral Relativism."

You did a fantastic job, and when you have made Christians angry or offended, that's good. It's the conviction of the Holy Ghost.

FreeThinke said...

AOW said, ' ... my father's spiritual advice went thus ...: "I have enough trouble taking care of my own soul. It's not my business to take care of YOURS."'

I know I would have loved your father -- a man after my own heart if ever there was one from the sound of it.

I admire the simplicity and directness of your post as well.

Good show!

~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

It could never be "good" to make ANYONE angry deliberately when it's unnecessary.

Come to think of it, when WOULD it be necessary?

~ FT

Silverfiddle said...

Jersey,

I am glad to apply some soothing balm to our savaged souls.

I placed that there at the end on purpose. I respect Rabbi Boteach and read him a lot.

Finntann said...

@Did anyone go see the Rabbi Boteach article?

Yes, seems a fairly rational approach.

@I've seen and heard the fat, pompous, heavily-bearded, domineering Schmuly on TV several times.

Did you read the link FT or are you just basing your position on past experience?

Jack Camwell said...

Holy God in heaven, if I read one more fool spitting out "moral relativism," I'm going to sacrifice puppies to Satan.

Leticia, I think you are wrong. Not only do I think you're wrong, but I believe that you would be wrong in all places, in all times, and in all cultures.

THAT is universalism. Please stop using "moral relativism," until you actually comprehend what it means.

After saying that, I sincerely apologize to anyone I've insulted over the past few days. I try to keep it civil on other people's blogs, but my flawed nature gets the better of me.

That being said, the *only* reason I ever pointed to the Bible, Silver, was to prove my point that it contradicts itself in several places. God is supposedly perfect. A perfect being would not contradict itself. So the *logical* conclusion is that it wasn't God that wrote the Bible, or even divinely inspired it, but it was humans that wrote it.

If God did divinely inspire it, then the humans that wrote it onto paper were apparently unable to comprehend God's inspiration. God did not command the Israelites to commit genoicde. He didn't command them to own slaves. The authors simply injected that crap to justify what they did, what they knew in their hearts to be wrong.

It shouldn't shake anyone's faith to admit that. So some human beings got it wrong. So what?

I want you Christians to answer me one question: why are you Christian at all? Chances are, you're Christian and faithful because you have a fear of hell. Some of you might think that you're Christian because it makes you feel all fulfilled or whatever.

Either way, you're not a Christian for the sake of being a Christian. You cling to the eschatology because, like most human beings, you can't stand feeling like you don't have a clue. You cling to worshipping God because a book tells you that you'll burn in Hell if you don't.

I'm here to tell you that none of that junk is likely to be true. Search your feelings. Ask yourself this question: would you send your own children to hell simply because they don't love you?

The truth of the matter is that none of you have any proof that anything I've said is false. You have a book. That's it. The Mormons have a book. The Muslims have a book. They've all got books, and you fools sit around and fight about which one is right.

You've missed the point about God and spirituality. It's not about believing in the "right" path: it's about discovering truth and trying to understand that which can never be understood.

I hate to break it to you, but God probably doesn't give a shit about what you do in life so long as you're not hurting anyone. Haven't any of you noticed that the Bible espouses much of the same core values as other religious texts?

Be good, do good. That's the key to happiness and a better world. Why don't you focus on that instead of whether or not it's okay for guys to fuck each other.

Thersites said...

Come to think of it, when WOULD it be necessary?

Plato, "Meno"

MENO: O Socrates, I used to be told, before I knew you, that you were always doubting yourself and making others doubt; and now you are casting your spells over me, and I am simply getting bewitched and enchanted, and am at my wits' end. And if I may venture to make a jest upon you, you seem to me both in your appearance and in your power over others to be very like the flat torpedo fish, who torpifies those who come near him and touch him, as you have now torpified me, I think. For my soul and my tongue are really torpid, and I do not know how to answer you; and though I have been delivered of an infinite variety of speeches about virtue before now, and to many persons—and very good ones they were, as I thought—at this moment I cannot even say what virtue is. And I think that you are very wise in not voyaging and going away from home, for if you did in other places as you do in Athens, you would be cast into prison as a magician.

SOCRATES: You are a rogue, Meno, and had all but caught me.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, there's always a gem in them there headlines, that's why I comment here.

Z, for some years now I have referred to myself as sort of a "Jeffersonian Christian." Very "American," you have to admit. And yet, still very atheistic. I'ma big fan of Jesus, just the same, and try to live by the Golden Rule.

I'm not a big fan of religious orthodoxy in the name of pretty much anything. PERIOD. It's idiocy. A successful, decent, moral, ethical, civil human real life dictates against it.

Irrational beliefs can be wonderful, beautiful things.

They can also be hell.

Take religion too far one way or the other, and it's just plain fatalism.

Oh no... I think Ducky's subliminally trained me to write in stanzas...

JMJ

Silverfiddle said...

"You have a book. That's it."

Well, we also have the Midrash as well as extrabiblical personal testimony of the early fathers, but I get your point and will agree with you.

Now, if the book is so flawed, why subscribe to a religion based upon it.

There are other systems of worshiping the creator. Why stay in a religion you don't agree with?

That's what I don't understand.

Silverfiddle said...

Jersey makes sense.

Finntann said...

@Christianity is not Zen Buddhism.

WHY NOT?

You might want to Google:

Roshi Father Robert Kennedy S.J.

The two are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing required in Zen that is incompatible with the Catholic Church.

The Buddha is neither divinity nor messiah, but teacher. While certain Buddhist sects venerate both the Buddha and the sages, the veneration is not the same as the veneration of the saints.

"As to all those images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Devas and other beings that one comes across in Zen temples, they are like so many pieces of wood or stone or metal; they are like camellias, azaleas, or stone lanterns in my garden. Make obeisance to the camellia now in full bloom, and worship it if you like, Zen would say." -D.T Suzuki

There have been quite a few Catholic Priests (mostly Jesuits) who were also zen masters.

One of the principal Zen Buddhist/Catholic Priests was Father Hugo Lasalle S.J, who oddly enough was vicar of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. He studied first under Harada Sogaku and then after his death studied under Yamada Koun earning the title Roshi in the Sanbo Kyondan sect.

Lets see... Father Heinrich Dumoulin, Father Ama Genun-ken Samy, Father Alfonso Kim... well you get the point.

Strangely enough the Buddhist view of god in many sects is fairly Deist in nature.

Well, probably more than you wanted to know, but kind of a hobby of mine.

Cheers!

Teresa said...

Question: How come so many who claim to follow Christianity reject certain basic Christian principles taught in the Bible? Based on that sounds too harsh and the times have made it irrelevant even if I'm not reading it in context and getting the main point? Why should today's times be enough of a reason to reject this or that teaching in the bible when you know that your position is in opposition to certain fundamental Christian principles?

Moral Relativism -- The philosophized notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural orientation. It can be used positively to effect change in the law (e.g., promoting tolerance for other customs or lifestyles) or negatively as a means to attempt justification for wrongdoing or lawbreaking. The opposite of moral relativism is moral absolutism, which espouses a fundamental, Natural Law of constant values and rules, and which judges all persons equally, irrespective of individual circumstances or cultural differences.

Z said...

Jack "Either way, you're not a Christian for the sake of being a Christian. You cling to the eschatology because, like most human beings, you can't stand feeling like you don't have a clue. You cling to worshipping God because a book tells you that you'll burn in Hell if you don't."

I don't cling to the Bible because of any of that; I wish I could tell you the changes I've had in me, seen in others, the times I've been shown things, answered prayer. Good thing you're not insulting anybody anymore :-) (really?!) But, yes, you have been insulting and it's nice to know you didn't mean to. SOunds more like the Jack I usually read here!

Jersey, I could hug you for your comment. I never thought I'd say that about you! :-) (See how the Holy Spirit works!? :-) :-)

Finntann, an actress friend of mine was a very active and involved Buddhist for 25 years and came to Christ about 7 years ago. She very often talks about how Buddhism put so much on HER, she could never meditate enough, she could never be good enough, she could never set a good enough example, etc etc...she feels such freedom in Jesus, that He died for our sins and she's released from having to worry because "good enough" just plain doesn't count. It's not a BAD thing, mind you, it's just not the whole enchilada!

Silverfiddle said...

Finn: Thank you for the discursion, but I was not denigrating Zen or suggesting it was incompatible with Christianity.

I don't even know that much about it other than it involves more enlightenment that ordinary Christianity (our mystics notwithstanding) and it relies less upon doctrine and unquestionable texts.

beamish said...

While my passionate grasp of history and theology prevents me from falling into the unfortunately common but still flashing neon-absurd error of mistaking Catholicism for Christianity, at least one of Catholicism's 10,000+ gods does have some similarities to Christian theology.

Finntann said...

Beamish... that's Irish, isn't it?

Téigh trasna ort féin.

The only thing you have a passionate grasp on was once rumored to cause hair to grow on your palms.

A little advice: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Finntann said...

SF... no problem, didn't think you were denigrating Zen, thought it interesting to interject a little twist to the conversation. I developed a passing interest in Zen living across the street from a Buddhist temple in Korea.

Jersey, well said... "Oh no... I think Ducky's subliminally trained me to write in stanzas... " had me rolling.

Z: Never thought it was 'the whole enchilada' and you are friend's assessment is an apt one, it is far more a discipline than a religion, although perhaps we would all be better off if we treated our religions as more of a discipline and less of a hobby. After all a discipline is that instruction given to disciples.

Cheers!

beamish said...

A little advice: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt

Ask a Christian what Matthew 5:22 means.

Hint: that's a verse from that book on your coffee table.

beamish said...

No, not the TV Guide.

Finntann said...

Me, I'm thinking Proverbs 6:19

beamish said...

Wow, an Old Testament reference to the RCC!

Clever!

beamish said...

Silly pagans.

jez said...

Got round to reading Boteach's column which is excellent.
Thersites: Love the Phaedrus.

jez said...

Not sure whom Leticia is answering, but remember: I, a moral relativist, abhor genocide whatever the circumstances, while you, constrained by the bible, must make allowances for those genocides committed or commanded by God. Arguably, this puts you in the greater moral peril.

jez said...

"The slavery issue is a valid point of inquiry"

I quite agree with what you say about it, but it really wasn't what I was trying to say, which is that if you happen to be a slave, xianity is a particularly effective & relevant religion to adopt. That's because xianity is about how to live within a society that is beyond your control (render unto Caesar), and in that way it is markedly opposed to judaism, which often concerns itself with how to form society and what to do about punishing criminals etc.

"Did Jesus hate any of the sinners he encountered?"

Well, he hated that fig tree.
Old Testament God's hate is a matter of record, and He's the same person.

Silverfiddle said...

Well, he hated that fig tree.

:0 that's funny!

Old Testament God's hate is a matter of record, and He's the same person.

Which goes to my point. God hates sin in all its forms. The OT dealt harshly with it, but Christ brought a new tone while still not condoning sin.

Teresa said...

This is for the skeptics.

Do you believe that it is murder when an elderly person dies, or when an infant dies from a disease? Do you believe that God is the Creator and therefore has created all that is living, including we humans? Do you believe that God has the authority to breathe life and to taketh away life since He is the author of all life?

If you believe that God is the Creator of all human beings, and is divine and human (not just human, he is different from us) why is it wrong for God to taketh away life in the OT in order to save Israel to pave the way for the coming of Jesus? How is that different from when He decides when it is your time to leave one life and enter the next?

jez said...

SF:
God hates not just sin, but sinners too. (psalms 5:5, 11:5)

See http://www.godhatesfags.com/faq.html#Focus for the Phelps' treatment of Romans 1.

Teresa:
"How is [OT massacre] different from when He decides when it is your time to [die naturally]"

1) the most obvious difference is that on occasion He commanded the Israelites to carry out the massacre instead of doing it Himself. That's just brutal, isn't it?
(not to mention His incredible powers, which make brutality unnecessary to achieve His will. He can do magic! But He chooses to kill instead.)

2) I don't follow the argument from Creator-hood to authority (what is it, a property argument?), but that's not the interesting bit.

3) Even if He has the authority, your position is that He is benevolent. Is it your position that it is somehow impossible to use this Authorial authority malevolently?

FreeThinke said...

"Christianity is about how to live within a society that is beyond your control (render unto Caesar), and in that way it is markedly opposed to judaism, which often concerns itself with how to form society and what to do about punishing criminals."


Well, Jez, to quote one of Al Capp's more endearing characters, "YA SHORE GOT THAT RIGHT!!!"

That is EXACTLY the element that defines the difference between Judaism and Christianity.

One of the best and most succinct observations I've heard in many a year.

Jesus was pro-Individual, pro-self-reliance, pro-taking personal responsibility for the way one chooses to respond to crises and temptations, pro-looking inward instead of pointing fingers at others.

Christianity is certain "THE WORLD" cannot be changed for the better by the mere exertion of human will, so instead of trying to mind everybody else's business, kill off opposition, take over other people's lives by taking a superior, condescending, hyper-critical attitude telling other what ought to do, or must do, and instead of trying to change the world through aggressive intervention and brutal conquest, JESUS effectively urges us to IMPROVE OURSELVES, and NOT to be critical, accusatory, and condemnatory towards others.

"Christianity" went off the rails, became corrupt and has earned itself a bad reputation when it became organized in a hierarchical structure, became politically powerful, and sought to RULE by TERROR, which is EXACTLY what happened in the Mediaeval period and beyond.

I doubt very much if Jesus Christ, Himself, has whole lot of respect for most of the organized power blocs that bear His name and pretend to serve Him.

~ FreeThinke

FreeThinke said...

It's all the self-serving BULLSHIT claiming ISRAEL to be SUPERIOR and MORE SIGNIFICANT than all other human societies that is at the ROOT of virtually EVERY adverse criticism and rejection that has come the way of Jews and Christians alike.

It is in my never humble opinion The Great Mistake.

That's right I came to the conclusion long ago that the concept of any one human society being "Chosen" is self-serving, mythological POPPYCOCK -- BULLSHIT -- BALONEY!

I don't believe it. I can't believe it, and I WON'T believe it. In fact I'll go right out to the end of the limb and say I think it's EVIL.

You can believe whatever you like -- but so, thank GOD, can I!

~ FreeThinke

Z said...

jez, those are a psalmist (maybe David, maybe someone else) talking for God. And he just might hate some; but we know also that the word HATE might not be a good translation as we learn better definitions...
like "Fear" of God isn't FEAR as we know it, but AWE and RESPECT, according to many theologists and linguists.
And He does give most a chance...but that's a whole other subject!
have a good day.

Silverfiddle said...

Jez: Again, that goes to the tonal difference between the OT and the NT.

re Phelps: Idiots doing idiotic things does not invalidate the message they've distorted. As I said before, I would simply ask them what Jesus would do.

He sure wouldn't scream at people and call them fags.

Z said...

"He sure wouldn't scream at people and call them fags."
THAT is for sure.

Faith aka Connie said...

I want you Christians to answer me one question: why are you Christian at all? Chances are, you're Christian and faithful because you have a fear of hell. Some of you might think that you're Christian because it makes you feel all fulfilled or whatever.

Either way, you're not a Christian for the sake of being a Christian.


Unbelievers have some pretty silly ideas why believers are believers. Just make it up apparently.

I read my way to Christ, many books starting with the Eastern religions. Was eventually persuaded that the Bible is God's word, inerrant, and Christianity is TRUE. Period.

Those who spend all their time trying to discredit the Bible (accusing God of Genocide when He righteously judges a nation among other things) will never get it, but oh well.

Teresa said...

Israel was chosen for Jesus' birth. That's what makes Israel special, not necessarily superior, Free Thinke. There are many scripture passages which foretold the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. God had to prepare the way for Jesus' coming by doing a cleansing of those obstinate, sinful peoples who rejected God's will time and time again. God gave these people plenty of time to repent and change their ways but they continuously chose to disobey his will. Without Jesus' coming he would not have died for our sins, for our salvation. And God knew what was necessary in order to fulfill the New Covenant.

Looking back in anger said...

Dear friends,
We are a small group of people called the Tea-Party, we are growing every day and soon we will be the largest political group in America. We were formed with ordinary people like you and I, Mom's and Dad's who are sick and tired about the path our country is going. and of Obama's dysfunctional policies,along with his lack of leadership and experience And Obama’s class-warfare tactics ..I am sick and tired of giving this man all these chances and all we see is failure after failure and p his constant playing the Blame Bush game. We see this great country of ours being destroyed and we vow to stop the destruction and reverse the effects that 100 years of Progressives have had on the American way of life... Their insidious attempt to destroy God in our lives, the family, the free market system, while infiltrating our schools and universities to indoctrinate our children... Though we're not here for the sole purpose of keeping Barack Obama from having a second term, it is at this time our highest priority... There is plenty of work to be done once this is accomplished, but nothing much will be relevant should this Marxist / Socialist have another four years to "Fundamentally Transform America"...

beamish said...

"Christianity" went off the rails, became corrupt and has earned itself a bad reputation when it became organized in a hierarchical structure, became politically powerful, and sought to RULE by TERROR, which is EXACTLY what happened in the Mediaeval period and beyond

That politically powerful heirarchical structure ruling by terror existed long before it shamelessly syncretized Christian and Biblical characters into its pantheon of 10,000+ gods some three centuries after Christianity was founded.

Leticia said...

Jack, I have studied moral relativism and universalism. I know exactly what I am talking about.

And I am not going to argue back and forth with you since you have judged me so harshly even though, you don't know me or know anything about me. In fact, your words, saddened my heart. You did not offend me in the least, you had quite the opposite effect.

You may see the Holy Bible as just a "book." To me it is the living Word of my God, Jehovah. It is my teacher, my moral compass, and it has revealed to me how much God truly loves all of His children. I view it as a love letter to us all.

I could go on for a long time of how the Lord changed and touched my heart forever. I used to be a Democrat, a hardcore liberal. That all changed when the Lord literally moved and touched my heart. His love is tangible, all you have to do is ask Him into your heart, or reveal Himself to you. God is no respecter of persons.

Those of us who truly stand on the Word of God and have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior have no need to fear hell or death. We know that Jesus paid that price for us.

There is joy, freedom and redemption through Jesus. And He is the only way.

Silverfiddle said...

"You may see the Holy Bible as just a "book." To me it is the living Word of my God, Jehovah. It is my teacher, my moral compass, and it has revealed to me how much God truly loves all of His children. I view it as a love letter to us all."

Amen sister!

jez said...

The Phelpses may be idiots, but the terrifying thing is they're sincere. They use the bible as teacher, moral compass, revelation etc. yet they've got it tragically wrong. I agree that they have probably misinterpreted somehow... but I can't prove it. Shouldn't it be easy?
The really disquieting point to this is, if they've got it wrong in some non-demonstrable way, how does one know when it's right? You might have got it wrong too! Maybe Freethinke's right. How do we find out?

"He sure wouldn't scream at people and call them fags."

He didn't use 20th century slang, but he did slag off His own disciples, calling them a perverse generation. He even resorted to using a whip on occasion -- the Phelpses have yet to go that far.

That's not to say that they are in my opinion Christ-like, just pointing out that to demonstrate their error, a rhetorical question "what would Jesus do?" isn't sufficient.

Silverfiddle said...

I understand your point Jez, and it's well taken. You're asking epistemological questions.

how does one know when it's right? You might have got it wrong too! Maybe Freethinke's right. How do we find out?

This is the justification for churches, and it is one of the main justifications the Catholic Church uses (We've got rabid anti-Catholics here, I don't want to get them stirred up, so I'll keep in generic).

Jesus didn't tell everybody to go do their own thing and find their own enlightenment. He founded a teaching church, instructing his apostles to go out and teach everyone what he had taught them. He vested them with authority and asked them to lead.

It was always supposed to be a teaching religion, with leaders (admittedly fallible) and groups of people gathering to worship and help one another.

Get out on your own where the buses don't run and you end up a Fred Phelps or a Jim Jones.

Still, I see your point, and I don't have a good answer. I know how I personally deal with it, but I don't have a large universal answer.

Leticia said...

Thanks, Silver!! :)

jez said...

"Get out on your own where the buses don't run and you end up a Fred Phelps or a Jim Jones."

A scary thought, but evidently true I suppose. The Bible must be considered potentially dangerous if not taught by (one of) the right Church(es).

Silverfiddle said...

It's a logical conclusion, Jez. Must be why Jesus founded a teaching church and gave certain people authority.