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Will God look like a psychopath this Easter?

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William Crawley | 18:35 UK time, Saturday, 7 April 2007

did_jesus_die_body.jpgJesus did not die for the sins of the world and those who say he did are portraying God as a "psychopath". No, it's not Richard Dawkins again. This time, it's the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. Dr John, you will recall, is the gay priest who was persuaded by Rowan Williams to withdraw from his appointment as Bishop of Reading in 2003 following some public controversy.

Dr John made his comments during a Lent Talk broadcast last night on BBC Radio Four. To say the least, it has angered quite a few more conservative believers. The key question he raises in his talk is this: What sort of God gets so angry with the world that he needs someone to die in order to calm himself down? The traditional theological themes of sacrificial atonement or substitutionary atonement are insane and illogical in Dr John's judgment.

You may recall my interview some time ago with Steve Chalke, who published a book which also challenged substitutionary accounts of the atonement. Since then, he has been "attacked" by Evangelical Alliance for his comments and is now regarded by many conservatives as, at best, post-evangelical.

Dr Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, has criticised the BBC for permitting Dr John to give such a "provocative" talk during Holy Week. But it's important to remember -- as a New Testament scholar such as Dr Wright fully appreciates -- that no single interpretation of the crucifixion has ever gained complete consensus in the history of the church, nor has any been deemed "the orthodox" interpretation by any ecumenical council. Instead, contrasting "theories" of the atonement are the subject of intense debate by theologians across the world. Why shouldn't such a profound question be explored in this of all weeks?

(The text of Dr John's lent talk is included below.)

The God of Wrath
Lent Talk 2007 by Dr Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans
Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 4 April, repeated Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 April

The instinctive feeling that suffering must be a punishment sent from God seems to lie deep in the human soul - or it does in mine anyway. In my case it may have something to do with the fact that I was brought up in a tradition of Welsh Calvinism which took a pretty firm line on sin and retribution.

In my childhood I also had a naughty great uncle, a man who very uncalvinistically drank and smoked and swore and womanized. He died a happy man, as you might imagine, but at a rather early age, of cirrhosis of the liver. His funeral was the first time he'd been in Chapel since his wedding. But the really memorable thing was the sermon, and the gasp of disbelief as the minister took a text of appalling relevance: Psalm 55, verse 23, "Y pechadur ni chaiff fyw hanner ei ddyddiau"…; "The sinner shall not live out half his days, for thou Lord shalt bring him down to the pit of destruction”.

Well, you know where you are with religion like that; but belief in divine retribution isn't confined to Welsh Calvinism. Some years ago there was a small earthquake on the island of Crete, which the local bishop promptly declared was God’s punishment on the Cretans for practising contraception. And it’s not so many years ago that some people in the Church of England were seriously wondering whether God had personally hurled a thunderbolt at York Minster in a fit of pique at Bishop David Jenkins' consecration. It is a pleasing thought in some ways, I admit, but it does leave you with an alarming picture of God if you carry it through.

Even on a personal level we seem to have this instinct that good fortune or bad must somehow depend on how good or bad we have been. Something awful happens and what we do? We look up to heaven and say "What have I done to deserve this? - as though divine rewards and retributions really were immediate and automatic.

Now, as it happens, there is some biblical backing for this instinct. In most of the earlier parts of the Old Testament, the bits that date before the Babylonian exile, this is precisely the way God's justice works. Sinners are struck down on the spot; Sodom is razed to the ground; whole clans are wiped out for the transgression of a single member, and the people of Israel suffer or prosper in direct proportion with their obedience or disobedience to God. At the personal level, if a man is healthy and happy it means God approves of him, he must have been behaving himself. Bu if he's poor, ill, luckless, childless, and subject to cirrhosis or earthquakes, then he must be a bad man, God is obviously punishing him.

"The Lord preserves the way of the righteous" says the Psalmist, "But the way of the ungodly shall perish".... "Once I was young and now I am old" he says, "Yet I never saw the righteous man begging his bread". I must say I've always felt, reading that, that the Psalmist really needed to get out more. Because of course it's nonsense. The theory doesn't work, and after the experience of the Exile most of the later Old Testament writers saw very plainly that it doesn't work; but it remained a persistent theory. And of course a very convenient one, if you happen to be rich, successful and healthy, because it gives you the added bonus of knowing you're in with God as well. But if you are none of those things, then not only do you have to suffer your misfortunes, you have the added burden of knowing God doesn't like you either.

There’s a much-ignored passage in Luke’s Gospel that tells us very clearly what Jesus thought about this theory of retribution. The disciples come up to Jesus one day and tell him about two recent events in the Palestinian news. In Galilee Pilate had just staged a massacre of some sectarian Jews who had been holding an illegal sacrifice; he had actually had them burned along with their offerings. And then in Siloam, a suburb of Jerusalem, a tower block had collapsed and killed l8 people. The disciples were very excited about all this and distinctly inclined to gloat. These people had got it in the neck, so they must have deserved it; besides, they had just been to Jerusalem and Galilee with Jesus, and those people had refused to listen. So plainly they had it coming to them. But when Jesus replies, what the disciples get is a wonderful smack in the mouth. "Do you really think the Galileans were worse than anyone else because they suffered? Or do you suppose the people in Siloam were greater sinners than anybody else?

The fact is that throughout the New Testament the primitive theory about the relationship between justice and suffering is turned upside-down. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer. Blessed are the hungry, he said, not the well-fed. Blessed are the poor, not the rich. Blessed are the sick, the miserable, the disreputable, the outcast, the down and out. They are the ones who will get their reward. If anything, a man's suffering and failure in this life are the sign of God's special blessing and care for him, not the opposite.

Come to that, how would Jesus himself have fared by the standards of worldly success? He who was the best and most holy of men, who should have been the happiest man alive if the old theory had been correct, turned out to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

And then finally, at the end of it all, he got himself crucified. Crucifixion may or may not be the worst form of torture in the world, but it had a particular theological significance we mustn’t miss. As St Paul explains, crucifixion was the method of execution which, according to the Law, was the special sign of God's ultimate punishment, his absolute curse: "Cursed be he that hangs upon a tree". On the cross, says Paul, Jesus took the place of all those who were supposed to be punished according to the Law. "God made him into sin who knew no sin". "He became a curse for us".

But hang on – you may well say - what exactly does that mean – ‘Jesus took our place’ ? Does it mean, then, that we are back with a punishing God after all, and that the Cross is somehow to be understood as God’s ultimate punishment for sin?

That’s certainly what I was told in my Calvinistic childhood. The explanation I was given went something like this. God was very angry with us for our sins, and because he is a just God, our sin had to be punished. But instead of punishing us he sent his Son, Jesus, as a substitute to suffer and die in our place. The blood of Jesus paid the price of our sins, and because of him God stopped being angry with us. In other words, Jesus took the rap, and we got forgiven, provided we said we believed in him.

Well, I don’t know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we’d say they were a monster.

Well, I haven’t changed my mind since. That explanation of the cross just doesn’t work, though sadly it’s one that’s still all too often preached. It just doesn’t make sense to talk about a nice Jesus down here, placating the wrath of a nasty, angry Father God in heaven. Christians believe Jesus is God incarnate. As he said, ‘Whoever sees me has seen the Father’. Jesus is what God is: he is the one who shows us God’s nature. And the most basic truth about God’s nature is that He is Love, not wrath and punishment.

Some Christians go through their lives without grasping this. I recently came across an interview given by an elderly priest who said it wasn't till he was nearly seventy that he was finally set free from his picture of an angry God.

Fr Robert Llewellyn was nearing retirement when he was appointed as custodian to the shrine of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich. Until then he'd regularly recited the confession in the prayer book which speaks of God's "wrath and indignation against us" without a second thought. But Julian’s teachings changed his life, because through her he met a God who didn’t need placating. Instead he says he became "drenched in the love of God". He realised, as Julian did, that the wrath of God is no more than a human projection, and that for God to be God, he can’t be less merciful and loving than the best of human beings. As Julian wrote,

wrath and friendship are two contraries… For I saw that there is no manner of wrath in God, neither for short time nor for long;—for in sooth, if God be wroth for an instant, we should never have life nor place nor being.

The cross, then, is not about Jesus reconciling an angry God to us; it’s almost the opposite. It’s about a totally loving God, incarnate in Christ, reconciling us to him. On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God. As St paul says, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Because he is Love, God does what Love does: He unites himself with the beloved. He enters his own creation and goes to the bottom line for us. Not sending a substitute to vent his punishment on, but going himself to the bitter end, sharing in the worst of suffering and grief that life can throw at us, and finally sharing our death, so that he can bring us through death to life in him.

There's a song by Sidney Carter which ironically sums up our misunderstanding of the cross, in the words of the impenitent thief:

It was on a Friday morning when they took me from the
cell,
And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well
Well: you can blame it on Pilate, you can blame
it on the Jews
You can blame it on the Devil - but it's God that
I accuse;
It's God they ought to crucify instead of you and
me -
I said to the Carpenter a-hanging on the tree.


Like the impenitent thief, we too can be so fixated on our picture of the punishing God of power we imagine up in heaven, we can’t grasp he's really down here, bleeding and dying at our side.

The most powerful illustration of this I know comes not from a Christian writer but a Jew, Elie Wiesel, the holocaust survivor and Nobel prize winner, who described his experience of Auschwitz in a famous book called Night. In the face of so much horror and evil many lost their faith; yet for a few it became, paradoxically, a new realisation of God’s closeness to them. In one harrowing passage Wiesel tells how a young boy was punished by the guards for stealing food. He was hanged on piano wire, while all the other prisoners were forced to watch:

For more than half an hour the boy stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony before our eyes. We were all forced to pass in front of him, but not allowed to look down or avert our eyes, on pain of being hanged ourselves. When I passed in front of him, the child’s tongue was still red, his eyes not yet glazed. Behind me a man muttered, ‘Where is your God now’? And I heard a voice within me answer him, ‘Where is he? Here He is. He is hanging here on this gallows’.

For me – if not for Ellie Wiesel - this above all is the meaning of the Cross: that God is one with us in our sufferings, and not just 2000 years ago but through all time.

On the cross God absorbs into himself our falleness and its consequences and offers us a new relationship.
God shows he knows what it’s like to be the loser; God hurts and weeps and bleeds and dies. It's a mystery we can hardly glimpse, let alone grasp; and if there is an answer to the problem of suffering, perhaps it’s one for the heart, not the reason. Because the answer God’s given is simply himself; to show that, so far from inflicting suffering as a punishment, he bears our griefs and shares our sorrow. From Good Friday on, God is no longer "God up there", inscrutably allotting rewards and retributions. On the Cross, even more than in the crib, he is Immanuel, God down here, God with us.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 09:00 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • helenanne smith wrote:

I agree entirely with Dean John. God is not a child-killer.

  • 2.
  • At 09:23 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Claire Greenstock wrote:

I've just listened back to the talk by Dr John. He is extremely insightful and a wonderful speaker. In fact, I think his was the best talk of the week on the Radio 4 lent talks. Balanced and careful thinking about a very complex issue is hard to find. I see now why so many supported Jeffrey John's appointment as a bishop. He is a natural teacher and gives me hope that the church is still able to produce such creative and skilled communicators. Well done for including this link and topic.

  • 3.
  • At 09:43 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • garethlee wrote:

If substitutionary theory is wrong, why did Jesus die?

  • 4.
  • At 09:52 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I think by modern liberal standards, god needs a course in anger management. But I also think he has (ahem, ahem) one hell of a sense of humor. I'd bet when the "righteous" Christians get to the Pearly Gates they will find heaven is exactly like hell, and when they ask Saint Peter about it, he will tell them it was all god's little joke and that Christians got it dead wrong. He wasn't testing man to see how sinless he could be but how naive. At this point, a lot of Northern Islanders will realize they've been had. It will suddenly dawn on them that they could have spent their lives enjoying being in the IRA or one of the Protestant militias having a good old time shooting people and planting bombs and been no worse off for it in the end anyway. Haha, the joke's on you.

  • 5.
  • At 09:53 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • kel wrote:

Out of interest, what do humanists believe about the crucifixion?

Did Jesus exist?

Did he die on a cross?

Just how much are humanists and atheists who've even thought about this actually believe about Jesus? An honest question ...

It's noteworthy that the vast majority of Christians who subscribe to some kind of traditional 'orthodoxy' would never see the need to ask any of these questions. Their logic is as follows:

1) We're in a bible-believing church.
2) Our church says that the bible says X about the atonement.
3) Therefore the bible says X about the atonement.

And that's all they need to know to believe that X is the case regarding the atonement.

Due to lack of education (or, in some cases, willful ignorance) they simply don't know about the great debates, theories, changes and motions that occurred many hundreds of years after the books of the bible were written and which established the doctrines they believe as 'orthodox' today. Because the vast majority of their fellow Christians believe X to be the case, it is never even entertained that X may not be the case.

Like Steve Chalke, it's such an attitude that relegated evangelicalism to MY past.

Perhaps the writers of Jesus' 'story' wished to fit him into the prevailing culture of the time?

Isis and Osiris is an example

http://home.earthlink.net/%7Epgwhacker/ChristianOrigins/PaganChrists_Isis_and_osiris.html

Dionysus would be another.

Now that is an even more radical thought than what was proposed by Dr. John.

Regards,
Michael

  • 8.
  • At 01:02 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

If Jesus was god, how could he die? God is supposed to be immortal. How could he have actually been dead if he were resurrected? Doesn't dead mean dead forever? Not only that but he is supposed to return in the second coming. So he wasn't really dead after all. If he wasn't dead, what kind of sacrifice did he make?

Now how many ways can you think of to make a primitive think he was seeing a burning bush which isn't actually burning and so isn't consumed? Hint, I have ceramic gas logs in my fireplace that you'd swear look exactly like hewn tree trunk sections and the vermiculite makes convincing burning embers. That's one way.

Maybe the second coming of Jesus was Houdini. He fooled a lot of people too.

Permit me to post off-topic here for a second? I think some of the regular commenters here may be interested in this (apologies if you already know this stuff):

Kent Hovind is a well-known creationist who is now serving a ten year sentence in federal prison for failure to pay over $500,000 in taxes. It'll be 2017 when he gets out, and he'll have another 3 years probation to do after that. Hovind had some fantastic responses in court, too, including the claim that he was a citizen of God's kingdom and therefore didn't owe the United States anything; he's also the guy who set up the Dinosaur Adventure Park in Florida, a creationist theme park for families.

The first time I saw him was on 'Da Ali G Show' when Ali G (played by the talented Sacha Baron Cohen) accused Hovind of not flushing a backstage toilet after he had used it, which Hovind denied. (Hilarious.)

Some of Hovind's speaking engagements on his particular brand of creationism (which he calls Hovind Theory) are available on YouTube - just type in "hovind" and you're off.

And finally, the 'Answers in Genesis' article called 'Arguments we think creationists shouldn't use' has been referenced here before; Kent Hovind, in a running spat with AIG, took it personally and issued a letter to AIG, which they responded to HERE.

Great stuff.

kel,

You ask a number of questions of humanists, but you must not assume that we would all give you the same answers. Humanists are freethinkers and sceptics. The last thing we should be promoting is certainty. The scientific outlook is tentative and provisional and we want to encourage questioning scepticism. There is too much belief and not enough doubt in the world. Oscar Wilde quipped: “The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true”. But I think Peter Ustinov was right: “Beliefs are what divide people; doubt unites them”.

What do humanists believe about the crucifixion? Well, it does seem rather like a glorification of pain and suffering. Did Jesus exist? Probably, but what Jesus? What type of man was he? I doubt if any humanists would believe that he was ‘God incarnate’. A good man, yes, in many ways, but not perfect, e.g. he said ‘love your enemies’ , but he also believed in hell and damnation and ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ for unbelievers. Some of the Christian moral message is good, but some of it is bad and the dogma is pretty awful.

The idea that Jesus died for our sins, that he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to God in our place, is surely immoral and dangerous. It seems to imply that people can actually go on sinning and not take responsibility for their own actions. Since we are being forgiven, there is no punishment. You can be the most nasty person imaginable and yet still get to heaven, because Jesus is your guarantee as long as you believe in him. In other words, belief is the key to salvation and we are back to the point I made at the start. We should not place right belief above good behaviour.

To die for others is a noble act, but as a principle it is wrong to teach the message that the innocent should suffer for other peoples’ crimes. Would a judge agree to a man being executed for the crimes of others simply because the former agreed to it? I hope not.

We could also say that the atonement idea is incoherent: it seems to imply that through Jesus god is punishing himself for the sinful nature that he gave us. Sin is an hereditary disease given to us by God because Adam and Eve didn’t do what they were told. God punished the human race and then killed himself to appease himself! In any case, since the cross implies a punishment, how can there be forgiveness since forgiveness doesn’t require punishment? It’s all very confusing.

Jean Meslier’s testament on the ransom theory of atonement is also worth quoting: “Jesus promised frequently that we would deliver the world from sin. Was there ever a falser prophecy?  – as the present century [18th] bears witness. It is said that Jesus came to save mankind. Mankind, indeed! If an army of a hundred thousand soldiers is made captive, and some ten or a dozen men are ransomed, one does not say that the army has been ransomed. What are we to think of a God who comes to be crucified and to die to save the world, and who leaves so many nations to damnation?”

  • 11.
  • At 10:15 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Personally, I think there is no real dispute over the meaning of this classic passage;-

John 3:16 (Amplified Bible)

"For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([a]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life."

PB

  • 12.
  • At 10:51 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • garethlee wrote:

pb, you're astonishing at times. No dispute? There have been hundreds of years of dispute over the meaning of the cross and the meaning of passages like the one you mention. Just because you're clear about what it means to you doesn't mean it's past dispute.

  • 13.
  • At 11:06 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Christopher Eastwood wrote:

FAO garethlee...

He spoke "personally", and therefore is surely entitled to speak his (her ? ) mind... Doesn't free speech include the right to speak out against free speech?

As regards the substance of this article, I have nothing to say. Increasingly, the entire theological enterprise seems to me to be an enormous waste of time (and ink). Does anyone wish to succinctly "remind" me as to why it isn't? Restore my "faith", so to speak? I dare you.

  • 14.
  • At 12:24 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

To paraphrase the great H L Mencken about the subject of theology...

The pursuit of the unknowable in the terms of the not worth knowing.

  • 15.
  • At 12:38 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Allen wrote:

Ok here is my 10 quids worth on this topic.

In Jewish culture 2000 years ago sacrifices of lambs and other animals were carried out for the atonement of sins. I don't believe God needed these sacrifices but the people needed them to feel "clean".

God is a shrewd being and knew what the people of the day thought about sacrifice. He wanted to get the message across that He has already forgiven our sins and there was no need for sacrificing so he sacrificed Himself in the form of Jesus to show US that we are forgiven. The crucifixion was for US not for God. It was a powerful symbol of God's love for us so powerful we are still taking about it 2000 years later!

In this light John 3:16 makes more sense. "For God so loved the world, he gave his Son.." Not because He needed to kill his own Son for Him to be able to forgive us but to show us that we are already forgiven and he loves so much that he would take the punishment WE feel we deserve.

Looking at the crucifixion in this way turns a barbaric act of torture into an act of ultimate love of God for human kind.

  • 16.
  • At 12:58 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Garthlee

Yes, it was also really "astonishing" for several days last week when I was the only person on this blog who contested what the bible "actually" says about slavery, as opposed to what the other contributors thought it said.

Around two dozen people viciously attacked me and accused me of trying to rewrite history over seevral threads.

Then Will Crawley posted an essay which vindictated everything I had said and the "astonishment" vaporised.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/shibboleth_on_slavery.html

ref post 12, yes there have been hundreds of pages of dispute about the meaning of the cross, I have no doubt - HOWEVER - I would argue that this has been over very secondary aspects of the subject.

Your challenge? show me any record of the Catholic Church, Orthodox, Coptic or main Protestant Denomincations, or the church fathers or early church councils every disputing that God sacrificed his own son for the people of the world.

That is the subject really being disputed by this heretic bishop, please note, not secondary issues.

I will be corrected on this, but I dont see it happening.

Over to you Garthlee.

PB


  • 17.
  • At 01:24 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Did God sacrifice his own son?

These bible passages show how God instituted the Jewish ritual of the sacrifice of the passover lamb to atone for their sins;-


http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/words.pl?bgcolor=FFFFFF&textcolor=000000&linkcolor=0000FF&vlinkcolor=A000FF&show_strongs=yes&icon=http://www.eliyah.com/backto.gif&word=lamb&page=1&hr=http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html


These New Testament bible passages show how God deliberately used his son, Christ, as the ultimate passover lamb, as the Old Testament sacrifices were imperfect (see book of Hebrews).


http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/words.pl?bgcolor=FFFFFF&textcolor=000000&linkcolor=0000FF&vlinkcolor=A000FF&show_strongs=yes&icon=http://www.eliyah.com/backto.gif&word=lamb&page=3&hr=http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html

cheers
PB

  • 18.
  • At 01:36 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Allen wrote:


These bible passages show how God instituted the Jewish ritual of the sacrifice of the passover lamb to atone for their sins....

Err no it doesn't. What you can say is- it shows what the people who wrote those passages at that time believed the sacrifices meant to them.

To quote Bishop Desmond Tutu "The Bible didn't just fall out of the sky you know.."

  • 19.
  • At 01:59 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Kel asked:
"Out of interest, what do humanists believe about the crucifixion?
Did Jesus exist?
Did he die on a cross?"

A reasonable couple of questions. As an ex-evangelical Christian, it was the study of the gospel accounts of Jesus that eventually led me to rejecting the whole nonsensical interpretation as put forward decades later by the early church.

There is precious little evidence for Jesus outside the gospels themselves - all the other accounts are derivative or mangled beyond reconstruction. The accounts of the nativity (which are mutually contradictory, as well as historically flawed) are late accretions.

I think it is highly likely that there was indeed a Galilean preacher called Jesus, and shortly before his death he caused a riot in the Temple in Jerusalem, prompting Pilate to treat him in the same manner as other wannabe messiahs, and nail him to a T-bar (which is more likely than a "cross" - the current Latin cross is largely developed from the Egyptian Ankh, used by the early Christians of Egypt). The poor old Jews (of which Jesus was one, remember) got the blame, which is something of a travesty.

The later interpretations we have of his death represent the attempts of (one group of) his followers to make sense of their tragedy.

As for the resurrection, it is pretty clear (or likely) that someone from Jesus' family arranged for the body to be transported from the temporary tomb back to Galilee for a private burial, out of the glare of publicity and out of the gaze of the Romans, or Jesus' embarrassing "disciples".

Back in those days, resurrections were two-a-penny - Jesus himself was thought to be Elijah or even John the Baptist! Credulous times.

The point is that even if Jesus *was* the "son of god" and even if he *was* supposed to take away the "sins of the world" (in such a bizarre and unnecessary way), the bible as it sits does not allow us to draw that conclusion.

So, the humanist views Jesus in the context of his times - there is nothing surprising there, not even the sheer power of human credulity or obstinate adherence to irrational (and wrong) beliefs, even in the face of persecution and death. It tells us a lot about the human condition.

William - give us more updates on Steve Chalke! I hadn't heard he'd come off the wagon - when I was a youngster, I had him pegged as pretty "sound" (from a Christian perspective).

I've revised the main post to correct a factual inaccuracy about Steve Chalke. He has not resigned from Evangelical Alliance as a result of the controversy surrounding his book, The Lost Message of Jesus. Instead, he has argued that his views on the atonement are consistent with the EA statement of faith. This provoked outrage from some members of EA, and prompted a public meeting with Chalke's views under discussion.

The outcome is that EA (in 2005) revised its original Statement of Faith to achieve greater clarity about the doctrine of the atonement. Point (6) of the newly revised version reads:

"The atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross: dying in our place, paying the price of sin and defeating evil, so reconciling us with God."

This replaces these earlier words:

"The substitutionary sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God as the sole all-sufficient ground of redemption from the guilt and power of sin, and from its eternal consequences."

You can compare both versions here: http://www.eauk.org/about/basis-of-faith.cfm

The theological implications of this change of words is stilling being debated by evangelicals. Some believe the new words make more space for "revisionist" views such as Steve Chalke's. Others believe the new words make a commitment to "penal substitutionary atonement" more explicit, thus excluding views such as Chalke's. It's pretty esoteric stuff, and there's no consensus, but to the next of my knowledge Steve Chalke is still a member of Evangelical Alliance and there has been no official move to expel him from the organisation. Yet.


  • 21.
  • At 02:30 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Thanks William. Sounds like Stevie just needs some gentle encouragement/counselling, and we'll make an atheist of him yet. There are *some* babies that you *should* throw out with the bathwater! ;-)

  • 22.
  • At 02:35 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

Why don't we debate important topics like the weight of the 'soul' or how many angels we can get on the point of a needle?

  • 23.
  • At 02:53 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Amenhotep

you say there is "precious little evidence for Jesus outside the gospels".

I think you better get over the wikipedia quick smart and delete this entry asap;-

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

Otherwise you just might be left a little red-faced.

PB

  • 24.
  • At 02:57 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

ps Amenhotep

I suppose the date, 2007, is a cruel joke on the entire world if it is based on a hoax about a non-existent middle eastern joiner who never actually lived?

Is that likely?

PB

  • 25.
  • At 03:01 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • henry grant lee wrote:

Alan, don't be so small-minded. I think these are fascinating questions since they raise issues about the nature of the god people say they believe in. You as a humanist should be interested in testing the logic of those beliefs, i'd have thought ...

  • 26.
  • At 03:13 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

PB,

The article on Wiki actually does not actually say much that is different from what Amenhotep wrote.

The secondary sources simply refer to Christians existing in the 1st and 2nd century, no-one would doubt that and it is precious little eg., Philo (who was a comtemporary says nothing of Jesus).

I do believe that a person called Jesus existed but agree with Amenhotep's interpretation.

  • 27.
  • At 03:14 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

If Jesus died and presumably went to heaven, and the object of Christian life is to go to heaven and enjoy eternal salvation, why was that a sacrifice? Wouldn't it be welcome? Didn't some Christians want to die so that they could go to heaven too? I forget which prominent one kept saying that he could hardly wait.

If God's or Jesus's plan all along was for Jesus to die on the cross to absolve man of his sins, why was that a sacrifice? Why is carrying out a plan they had all along from his birth a sacrifice? Isn't that what they wanted to happen? And for all you Jew hating Christians who call Jews "Christ killers" assuming they actually killed him what if they hadn't? You wouldn't even have a religion. You'd all be Jews yourselves...or heathens.

For all you Moslems, you say you believe in prophets of other religions including Jesus. So when Jesus Christ went to heaven or paradise or whatever you call it.........(yup)...did he get 72 virgins? Did he get more for being the son of god? Did he get none for being purer than pure? How many did he get if any? By the way, this brings up an interesting question I've always had about this reward of 72 virgins. When you get them, is this for the express purpose of having sexual intercourse with them? Is the product of such intercourse mere pleasure or does it result in procreation? What would these virgins' issue be like? Human? Angelic? According to many Christian theologians thoroughout history, the only legitimate purpose of sexual intercourse is procreation, a true Christian is not supposed to get physical pleasure from it. How does that square with being provided virgins in paradise?

Elaine Pagels and Karen King had an interesting discussion which may be heard or downloaded here ....

http://www.gracecathedral.org/forum/

on their book Reading Judas

A lot of the material discussed in this thread was covered very well in their discussion. They went into the issue of the meaning of the crucifixion and the debate that the early Christians had about it.

They also discussed the movement of Christian understanding from the outer to the inner meaning of these writings i.e. from the literal to the metaphorical and how the 'metaphorical' was suppressed as misguided.

The whole question of martyrdom is also interesting in their discussion given the present problems with that in Islam. Ironically, the writer of the Gospel of Judas was strongly opposed to martyrdom.

Regards,
Michael

  • 29.
  • At 03:41 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Christopher Eastwood,

ref post 13, thanks.

Why is this enterprise important?

I think what we truly worship we become and that means our lives, community and nation reflects this.

Christ lived a faultess, selfless, loving, perfect life worthy of worship.

What would be the negative downsides of individuals and communities that modelled their lives on him and his values?

By contrast, what would the impact on individuals and their communities if they model themselves and their values on... their own shifting ideas, rock stars, millionaires, sports stars, money, pleasure etc etc???

Organisations never live up to their mission statements, neither do Christians, but better to fail following noble objectives than not to try.

Why has the date really been fixed in favour of a mere middle eastern Jew who was born 2000 years ago?


PB

Mark- I don't think Christians believe that there are virgins awaiting believing men as a reward in paradise. That's a distinctly Muslim construct.

PB- You appear to have got this idea in your head that the current evangelical orthodoxy is inherently evident from the bible, and, moreover, is the only one evident from the bible. This is foolhardy for two reasons: (1) because the history of theology tells us that there was a multitude of other ideas floating around for hundreds of years afterward, all based upon the bible, some of which were considered 'orthodox' for ages but which you now consider to be heretical, and (2) because what is current orthodoxy bears no relation to what is the best answer or what is the true answer, nor makes no attempt to even consider the multitude of other answers; it simply arrives in a package passed down from previous generations. Is that really the best means at which to arrive at a truthful belief?

If you doubt what I say, take a look at the approach of the Evangelical Alliance to Steve Chalke (main post and update comment #20). He believes something only slightly different to evangelical orthodoxy, and instead of a calm, rational conversation with a willingness to simply disagree, the approach of the EA is like a heresy trial, telling him that he needs to "re-think" his position and regarding his POV as a departure from the true Christian position. Such an attitude is far from truth-seeking; such an attitude is instead tradition-preserving, which bears no relation to truth-seeking.

So, PB. Want to find truth? Abandon evangelical certainty and begin to think for yourself.

  • 31.
  • At 03:53 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

Henry
The reason for my trivial comment re the weight of a soul and angels on the point of a needle was to demonstrate that apparently important theological arguments usually become ridiculous with time.
I give the bible no more credibility than the myths of ancient Greece or Rome and to argue about how it is to be interpretated is a total waste of human time and resources which would be better spent on the many practical problems facing humanity.

  • 32.
  • At 03:57 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


JW

You know and it is a metter of record on this blog that on numerous discussions before you have clearly shown yourself to have little knowledge of the bible, yet pretend that you do. eg relationship of OT &NT, law and grace for one, also biblical accounts of homosexuality and even in the past week you lambasted me for my position on a biblical account of slavery which William later vindicated.

You also previously referred me to an infantile website strewn with schoolboy errors when I began to discuss biblical sexuality with you.

Not that I defend or attack either EA or Steven Chalke but you must look again at the links above and you will find the main report of the exchange was from Ekklesia which are no friends of divine biblical inspiration and authority.

So, before you accuse me of not thinking for myself, please can you explain why you made similar accusations of my biblical ignorance when we discussed slavery and why you have not yet apologised after William's vindication of my position?

I was able to take the true position on this subject after much study, your position was completely erronous because you did not.

There, in microcosm, is the nature of our divergent views.

sincerely
PB

  • 33.
  • At 03:58 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

PB
You did not win the slavery debate!!
If the bible is the great font of wisdom and morality why dooes it not condemn all slavery as strongly as say - the great SIN of ENVY?

  • 34.
  • At 04:18 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Alan Watson

Your last comment on slavery declares that you did not really read or digest the essay Will submitted, nor my study; that you have not understood the main point both were making.

It was not actually about winning an argument. My objective was simply to demonstrate the entirety of the bible actually says about slavery and in particular that it clearly forbids kidnapping people into slavery as was done in Africa.

Will's essay in particular clearly demonstrates that the bible was the ONLY champion of slaves' human rights in ancient times and that the bible progressively developed the position until slavery was abolished in the early church; nobody else was doing this, and certainly not your ideological forbears.

Your morality and thinking has now been shaped by these achievements; had the bible not been written who would have advanced their human rights up to the abolition of the practise in the early church?

That is why Will says slave owners usually banned their slaves from owning the New Testament.

Read the essay Will submitted again, line by line and let it sink in...

For what it is worth Will, it is the best succint representation of the subject I have read to date.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/shibboleth_on_slavery.html

PB

PB- To imagine that you came out on top of the slavery debate is truly indicative of your self-delusion on the matter. And your assault on my knowledge of theological issues has been repeated many times, yet you haven't answered my challenges in that regard: if there's something you don't think I know then test me and it'll be easy to find out.

I'm a little disappointed that your main response to my thoughtful post #30 above was just an ad hominem slurry of rehashed prejudice, but I can't say I'm surprised.

Where you do deal with the issue, you say "...the main report of the exchange was from Ekklesia which are no friends of divine biblical inspiration and authority." That's exactly my point: if someone (like me or Ekklesia) comes from a carefully considered point of theology which happens to disagree with current orthodoxy, you won't even engage in proper argument because you don't consider anything but current orthodoxy to be a valid starting point. My debate with you is that none of these conversations are closed just because one happens to be tagged with the word 'orthodox'. Orthodoxy must prove itself just as much as heresy.

There, we disagree. But the difference is that I'm willing to talk rationally about it: you won't.

  • 36.
  • At 04:29 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Kel HP wrote:

I agree with John. Pb's claim amounted to this: the Bible talks about crimes related to slave TRADING. In other words, the Bible does not allow human beings to be bought and sold as slaves. But the Bible DOES permit human beings to be taken as slaves after a battle has been won, for example. PB keeps reducing this debate to the topic of slave TRADING. Why don't you accept that the Bible allowed some people to take others as slaves. And that's just wrong!

Can I encourage commenters to organise comments under the relevant posts so that readers can keep track of debates? If you've other things to say about slavery, please leave comments under that post. This post relates to atonement debates. Thanks to everyone for some interesting comments so far. On Sunday morning, shortly after 9, I plan to discuss these issues on Sunday Sequence with Jonathan Bartley, director of the religious news service Ekklesia, and Dr David Shepherd, principal of Belfast Bible College.

  • 38.
  • At 04:48 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

"It was not actually about winning an argument. My objective was simply to demonstrate the entirety of the bible actually says about slavery and in particular that it clearly forbids kidnapping people into slavery as was done in Africa."

But the Bible does allow the kidnapping of people for slavery ie., POW's re: the Exodus passage.

"Will's essay in particular clearly demonstrates that the bible was the ONLY champion of slaves' human rights in ancient times "

Rubbish slaves had rights in the Roman Empire, look at how many freedmen there where and the high positions they held ie., Pallas under Claudius.

"Your morality and thinking has now been shaped by these achievements; had the bible not been written who would have advanced their human rights up to the abolition of the practise in the early church?

That is why Will says slave owners usually banned their slaves from owning the New Testament."

But slavery did carry on and was sanctioned by the church especially the Bible-believers. Indeed slavery continued into other forms in the south of the US ie., segregation and what excuse did they use...The Bible-it was not atheist, commie liberals who were for this practice but the true blue, Bible-thumpers and I am of course not painting all Christians with the same brush.

Thanks DD!

  • 40.
  • At 04:49 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

Point noted William!

  • 41.
  • At 05:49 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Christopher Eastwood wrote:

FAO pb (re: post 29)

You've made a worthy argument...

for the importance to people's well-being (and that of the society in which they live) of their choosing constructive role models. As you rightly point out, Jesus' life provides as good a "template" as we could hope for.
So we are in agreement....

Now, what's all this talk of beng saved?

  • 42.
  • At 10:56 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Will

sorry, ref the slavery thing.

part of the problem is that the shibboleth thread is no longer working and I never got to see how it ended.


There appear to be real unresolved issues on this topic Will. Perhaps you should start another thread. There appears to be plenty of mileage and the last one is broken.

Well?????


Chris Eastwood
ref all this talk of being saved... see post 11 again.

But now understand this. being "being saved" is not an intellectual concept. it is one of those things that can really only be understood through experience.

to me I relived this again clearly in recent days when I "broke through".
I was seeking God and cleared my accounts with him.

I remembered and re-experienced what it was like to have him clear my conscience, clear my guilt over my past wrongs, and experience a real connection with him.

What hinders this experience in my life? sin, lack of purpose in seeking God, carelessness. It was like rediscovering my first love again.

It feels like everything in your life is working for you rather than against you, you feel a deep inner peace, you have faith the future is under control, you have confidence about eternity after death.

How can YOU tell if what I am saying is real?

Ask God to demonstrate himself to you. You might be surprised!


Amenhotep
ref post 23 apologies, my tone was uncalled for.

got to run, my spouse is calling me to bed...

gnight guys

PB

  • 43.
  • At 11:06 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW

I have no problems with Ekklesia commenting on any issues.

My point is that they have a clear agenda and ramp up controversy on topics; I know this as fact.

If you read their account of Chalke vs EA you would imagine there was plenty of blood spilt, but read it again carefully and you see that is the Ekklesia editorialising on the story when they should have been reporting; note the difference.

I dont know anything about Chalke vs EA, it might have been bloody, but I know Ekklesia's track record on such matters for certain.

By the way, I have made no personal attacks on your character JW, I am stating as a matter of fact that you have been found severly wanting in understanding the topics mentioned in the bible; that is not a slur it is a statement of fact; most of it should still be on record.

And if you want to be tested, well let's here your view on the Shibboleth essay; remember you told me I was talking rubbish when I was saying the same thing earlier.

You can post in the theological racist thread and I will look it up tomorrow.

PB

Shibboleth are you a member of the Society of Biblical Literature

  • 45.
  • At 02:25 AM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Christopher Eastwood wrote:

FAO pb

Ok, so you believe you will be saved because you have read of the promise in the 3rd Chapter of St John's Goapel.

Let me ask you... have you ever read the Qu'ran?

  • 46.
  • At 09:24 AM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Back to atonement, it seems pretty clear that the crucifiction/resurrection of Jesus is *unnecessary* to achieve the stated aim (i.e. "putting people right with god"). It is then reasonable to ask what the whole charade was about. What is very clear is that Christianity is yet another means for humans to try to understand the world and their lives in cosmic terms. So it requires a god/judge and a sacrifice/scapegoat like so many other religions. I think Steve should just
be honest, and give up the whole shootin'match. At best, it's just a metaphor. By all means, celebrate the metaphor; even carry out the rituals. But you don't need to *believe* it for it to *work* at the psychological level (which is where it has its effect).

Or, better still, just become an atheist/humanist. It's not that hard, and the company is excellent :-)

  • 47.
  • At 03:41 PM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Chris E / Amnehotep / Shibboleth

No I dont believe anyone will be saved from merely reading a passage.
John 3:16 is a summary explanation of how to be "saved" John 3:16, thats all.

Being born again as Christ called it on one occasion is having your sins wiped clean and made fit for heaven.

Have I read the Koran? in parts yes. I presume you mean why dont I believe it?

Muslims believe the bible to be completely corrupted and that the Koran replaced it because of this. They believe Mohammed was the final prophet from God and more senior than Christ, whom they take as just a prophet.

Problems; I have discussed the "corrupt bible" claim at length with Muslims and it doesnt stand up. Check it out yourself. There are masses of bible text fragments from different times and locations which verify the text. Although there are slight variations between manuscripts these are always exceptionally minor.
There are endless numbers of english bibles based on different manuscripts and I challenge you to find a significant difference between any of them! There is clearly absoluetly nothing that would draw any real questions down on the Christian faith.

On top of that, if you remove what I personally would consider tampered and lesser quality manuscripts from the equation you are left with even less difference.

Next time you can ask a Muslim about this and check out their understanding of this for yourself.
ie Where exactly is the bible corrupt?
It doesnt add up and the Muslims I have met cannot begin to think through it for themselves.

The main point though is that Islam is like every other religion in this; it denies the divinity of Christ and that salvation is by grace (unmerited favour) through Christ's sacrifice.

The God of the bible is "Father"; do you believe he wants to make his children work ceaslessly to earn his approval, never sure of where they stand (salvation by works)? or would you think it more in keeping with his character to grant his pardon and cleansing to those who request it (salvation by grace) to be adopted into his family as full sons?

Amenhotep,

The bible says without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins and that the blood of Jesus Chirst cleanses us from all sin.

These are not abstract theories, I have seen people in the vice of various addictions set free and seen it work in my own life.

The wages of sin is death, therefore a sinless human sacrifice could not be contained by the grave; no sin equals reseurrection.

Buddha and Mohammed and Marx have all been defeated by death but Christ as beaten it. Would you buy eternal life from a salesman who couldnt demonstrate the product? Christ did, and how.


There have been many refs to pagan Christs and sacrfices in this thread but you should realise that it is accepted by many that the early messianic prophecies regarding these matters in the Old Testament were spotted by Satan early on and counterfeited (google: messiah/christ prophecy genesis).


As I see it the gravity of sin from Eden was marked by God in that it required blood be shed to atone for it.

This was not reckless bloodlust but was to mark how serious sin was. ie how terrible we to have to slay this animal; this must mark how serious sin is to me and to God.

Every old testament sacrifice was a type and prophecy of the ultimate sacrifice; Christ the ultimate passover lamb; he was sacrificed on the passover, the day the Jews sacrificed their lamb, remember?
And remember John the Baptist saying when he saw Christ "Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world"?

Blood from the first passover lamb was spread by the Jews of their doors and God's judgement passed over them; they acknowledged their sinfulness and need of forgiveness. It is exactly the same when we accept our need of Christ's blood; judgement passes over us.

This means that from before time, God always knew each sacrifice was leading up to his own sacrifice.

This thread so far takes Christ as the Son of God, but dont forget the Trinity; Christ is God and is one with God the father.

So it is absoluetly correct to say that God actually sacrificed himself to cleanse us from our evil and to clear the way open to him again.

In other words, he was not doing anything to his animals that he knew he would not have to go through himself in order to redeem his pride and joy; man.

If there had been another way, wouldnt God have found it?

BY the way, you say the company of athiests is excellent, but I am having trouble thinking of anybody who was ever inspired by athiesm to great heights and to help their fellow man.

But I can think of many people who were inspired to serve their fellow man by God. Wilberforce comes to mind as just one, at this time.

After all is said and done, I rely on childlike faith that Christ said was essential.

If you believe in God there must always be mystery, or he would not be God.

I dont pretend to have all the answers but that doesnt mean I dont think for myself.

PB

PS Shibboleth, nice to hear from you. But whatever you say, say something.
Your pearls are being scattered by, ahem, unbelievers and you appear to have nothing to say about it.
What about another biblical slavery thread to deal with ongoing confusion?

  • 48.
  • At 03:52 PM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

"There have been many refs to pagan Christs and sacrfices in this thread but you should realise that it is accepted by many that the early messianic prophecies regarding these matters in the Old Testament were spotted by Satan early on and counterfeited (google: messiah/christ prophecy genesis)."

Wow, now I have heard everything Satan "counterfeited" the Pagan christs etc! I think the early church fathers used this excuse as well and it as mind-numbing then as it is now.


  • 49.
  • At 05:10 PM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Dylan Dog

You asked if the bible justified raping women in war.

I have given you an answer here on the thread you posed the question on;-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/primate_of_homophobia.html

PB

  • 50.
  • At 08:43 AM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:


DD

None of this is secret, if you do a little digging you will stand it up.

Baal worship was founded shortly after the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel.

It revolved around worship of the sun god and moon goddess.
He was slain for leading people into Baal worship and according to different accounts his wife/mother brought back together all the parts of his body and impregnated herself (or was already pregnant by him).
Then she announced her new baby was her husband resurrected, hence the pagan resurrection and counterfeit christ. Hence originated mother and child worship.

This is why pagans celebrate the solstices, and full moons, in honour of these characters.

The same story has been celebrated by many cultures under different names.
In the bible some of the names attributed to him were Baal, Tammuz, Molech etc.

For her, biblical titles included the Queen of Heaven, Diana, etc etc.
The Assyrians, Greeks, Romans etc all adhered to the same story using different names, Isis and Osiris, or Astarte and Tammuz etc.

Sun and moon worship are clearly part of Baal worship that God tried to lead Israel away from in the Old Testament.

"Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto to me, 'Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these." — Ezekiel 8.14-15

Today the same story and central resurrection character is celebrated under the name Hiram Abiff in freemasonry.

So counterfeit Christs are clearly there in the bible and something recognised early on in the bible as counterfeit and from satan; you can see in the Ezekial excerpt above that God called it "an abomination".

The semiramis wikipedia link affirms the early church fathers, as you agree, made the link with the early prophecy of Christ in genesis ie that Satan was creating a counterfeit Christ and religion to lead people away from God and the true Messiah.

Satan is very intelligent and was a very senior angel. Would it not be more surprising if he did NOT try and put up a rival messiah to draw people away from the true one?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiramis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammuz

Genesis 3:15 is generally accepted to foretell the sacrifice of Christ;
http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=genesis+3%3A15&meta=

Satan would have been well aware of this.

PB

  • 51.
  • At 08:57 AM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

...perhaps the central title which best catches this resurrection myth through the ages is "mystery religion".

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

This same religion is also explicitly linked to its Babylonian origins in Revelation 17.

PB

  • 52.
  • At 09:40 AM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

"Baal worship was founded shortly after the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel."

It's a myth.

"Satan is very intelligent and was a very senior angel. Would it not be more surprising if he did NOT try and put up a rival messiah to draw people away from the true one?"

Bit like your god/satan planting fossils to confuse the true believer(and just as kooky).

"Satan would have been well aware of this."

Quite!

  • 53.
  • At 02:58 PM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

There was an interesting discussion on CNN the other night about neurotheology, the physiological basis in the human brain for belief in god. New findings of magnetic resonance imaging suggest activity of certain areas of the brain during religious experiences such as prayer and deep meditation.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/04/04/neurotheology/index.html

Apparantly this is not a new idea and has a long history going back to Aldous Huxley

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

According to CNN, there may be agreement among both theologians and atheists of this phenomenon if not about its meaning. As an infamous atheist myself, I am becoming more convinced that Dawkins is right, belief in god and religion based on undemonstrable supposed truths to the point where people are willing to kill and even die themselves for it is a from of mental illness. And now we have the possibility that humans are genetically predisposed to this form of widespread disease. Perhaps it will one day lead to the extinction of our species, a kind of delusionally induced mass suicide.

  • 54.
  • At 07:16 PM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • confused wrote:

What is the origin of sin?
If God is ALPHA and OMEGA surely He created sin.
It is not good enough to say that the misuse of man's freewill is the cause.
If man was imperfect ( God's Creation) then God is responsible. If that is so can we trust him to provide a Saviour who is sinless?

  • 55.
  • At 08:31 PM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

DD

I have to concede, I couldnt stand over every aspect of this mystery religion thing.

However, it is certainly fact that the same story has been recycled under different names through Assyria, Babylonia, Greece and Rome and that the worship of many of these characters is identified and condemned from the first book of the bible to the last.

BTW, you asked if the bible condoned rape during war. I posted an answer for you here, which will doubtless impress you no end;-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/primate_of_homophobia.html


Dear Confused, are you saying you would be quite happy for God to take away your free will?

PB

  • 56.
  • At 08:41 PM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


also, ref the is God a psychopathy thing.

Everyone in this debate so far seems to have missed the point that you would need to be round the bend NOT to have been angered by man's conduct down through history.

God would have been insane not to have got angry.

But I think will is blurring the lines between two quite different debates when he links these questions;

1) Did God sacrifice his own son?
2) What is the meaning of the atonement.

This causes needless confusion, I think.

There is no real debate in Christendom that God did sacrifice his son.

However there has always been discussion and debate about the exact meaning of substitutionary atonement.

A bit of controversial Easter writing from Will in the interests of controversy, I reckon.

;-)

PB

  • 57.
  • At 09:00 PM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • Philip Campbell wrote:

It is hardly surprising that Jeffrey John is wrong on his views about the Cross, since his attiude to homosexuality - something about which Scripture is very clear - is also unbiblical, and therefore unchristian.

What the Bible describes as God's anger against sin is not teaching that He 'flies off the handle' or loses His temper. It arises from the purity of His Character, which is repelled by human sinfulness.

The Cross is where 'God's wrath and mercy met', where Jesus willingly took our sin upon Himself and God punished Him in our place.

Without that atoning sacrifice, all of mankind would be hopelessly lost. But men and women can find forgiveness and new life by faith in the One Who died for them there.

  • 58.
  • At 02:12 AM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

pb, it must be a mystery religion. There are more sects to Christianity than you can count with more popping up every day and each one beieves it is the one and only true interpreter of the bible and Christ. Why in some countries these sects are so intensely at odds with each other they actually kill people from other sects over who best understands "the prince of peace." Can you imagine that? Of course there is another possibility and that is.....that what they are really fighting over is money and power. Nah, they wouldn't do that....would they?

Philip- I'd suggest that this isn't the place for evangelism.

  • 60.
  • At 01:21 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The Judeo Christian view of god leaves a gaping chasm in its logic and cohesiveness. According to its teachings, God who is omniscient and omnipotent created the entire vast universe including man. He gave man "free will" but having such omniscience, surely god would know how man would use it. But when man uses it to God's displeasure, God is surprised and becomes angry punishing his own creation for being imperfect, like a child frustrated with a toy which does not perform to expectations. How can a perfect god create an imperfect man? How can an all knowing god not know what man will do? And according to at least some Christians, how can a "loving god" become angry and punish his own creation for its defects which god is responsible for. If god has given instruction to teach man and man has not learned god's lesson, is god an imperfect teacher or is his creation and imperfect student? A psychopath? Maybe more like a spoiled child.

PB- Again in post #56 you appear to wish to downplay the concept of serious debate within the Christian church. You consistently have this idea that there's one central belief structure which the church has always had, or has always been moving toward, or is inherently right, or which is believed by the vast majority, etc.

You are wrong!

As Will's post and links clearly explain above, this is not merely a discussion on "...the exact meaning of substitutionary atonement." It is a discussion challenging the very IDEA of substitutionary atonement! It's a huge theological debate that's been thriving for 2000 years regarding which many theories have surfaced (all claiming to be 'biblical') with widely diverse accounts of what took place in the death of Christ.

By the way, what is your opinion of Dr. Jeffery John's view (contained above)? Do you think he's right? Wrong? Why?

And what is your opinion of Steve Chalke's view? Do you think he's right? Wrong? Why?

And finally, why do you wish to mislead people into believing that your particular variety of Christian faith is the only valid one or the only one worth considering?

  • 62.
  • At 07:35 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW

Ill let you do a little leg work here.
Can you demonstrate from objective authorities that there is serious debate in churches about whether or not God sacrificed his son for the world?

BTW, you dont hold back on pushing your post-evangelicalism, so maybe its not very fair for objecting to Philip's comments. What he says is clearly directly relevant to the subject.

Before I answer the rest of your questions, you never did give me any feedback;

What did you think of Shibboleth's take on slavery? From what I can see he vindicated me 100%, though you absolutely slated me for propounding a biblical treatise on slavery, here;-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/primate_of_homophobia.html

You seem to have smoothed over this but I think you need to address it.

Would like to see your comments here on the thread you slated me on, please.

I think that is only fair, please;-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/primate_of_homophobia.html

PB

PB

PB how do you know that Shibboleth is a "HE" and not a "SHE"

PB- Thanks for your prompt reply. You ask:

"Can you demonstrate from objective authorities that there is serious debate in churches about whether or not God sacrificed his son for the world?"

Firstly, it's difficult to know what you'll accept as objective. But I can demonstrate unequivocally (by any reasonable standard) that there is serious debate in the Christian church on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, as there always has been (though it should be obvious without requiring formal 'proof' of such a thing).

I'll start with the obvious:

1) Dr. Jeffery John, Dean of St. Albans, argues that Jesus did not die instead of us but suffered with us, not as a substitute but almost as a comrade. This is disputed widely, including by Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham.

2) Steve Chalke challenged the idea of substitutionary atonement in his book 'The Lost Message of Jesus', triggering the modern-day version of a heresy trial from the Evangelical Alliance.

3) In 'Christus Victor', Gustaf Aulén presents the essence of the debate on various theories of the atonement. These theories do not agree.

4) There are more detailed descriptions of the competing theories of the atonement on websites like http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_atone5.htm for more information.

I don't want to go back to the slavery debate, but would certainly be willing to revisit it at some point in the future (I know it'll come up again) at which time I'll be happy to engage you on it again.

  • 65.
  • At 09:51 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


JW

I asked you whether there was any real debate in the church about whether or not God gave his son as a sacrifice for the world.

You are discussing substituionary atonement.

As I point out in post 56, these are two entirely different matters.

Would be appreciated if you could answer the question posed please.

I take no pleasure in it, but I have to say it, ref slavery; yet again you are blown out of the water because you spend so much time reading books about the bible but refuse to study the primary text.

This appears to be quite a contradicotry position to be in.

That is why you refuse to review the absolute slating you gave me on slavery; because you know that Will's Shibboleth vindicated my assertions 110%, the same assertions you slated me for in front of the world with no little glee.

I am not saying this in the spirit of "i told you so".

It is just that if this blog is about religious ideas and truth and you slate me when I am speaking truth and refuse to address the issue when it is exposed, then shame on me if I let you gloss over the matter and try it all over again on the next subject, ie atonement.

It is not fair on me, on other bloggers trying to follow discussions, nor ultimately on yourself.

You are weighed in the scales and found wanting JW.

PB

  • 66.
  • At 10:08 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Who would like a God who is not angered by...

1) The holocaust
2) Sudan
3) Global poverty and starvation
4) Pharmaceutical MNCs that refuse to assist the battle against HIV.
5) Iraq
6) Child sexual abuse
7) Elder abuse
8) Humans torturing humans
9) Fill in your own topic here...


I hope Will & Co are just stirring the pot above, because if they really think a God of love should smile lovingly at the people doing the above things, then there are a lot more screwed up people who are alot more screwed up than I thought...


I just dont think it is possible to fully understand the cross. To assume we can understand every mystery is almost wanting to be God.

Perhaps the most important thing about the cross is not how it works, but why it works; that God (Christ) willingly laid down his life at the hands of those he created to demonstrate his love for them (us).

If there is any other way any of the folks above can dream up that God might better have shown his love and committment to salvaging us from our rottenness, I for one would be very interested to hear it.

I just cant see he could have lived a better life for us all.

PB

PB- I'll try this again. In your comment #56, you implied that the only real debate about the atonement is on the "...exact meaning of substitutionary atonement" [your words]. Your contention is incorrect. There is much debate on how the atonement works, and that is what the controversy above is about. I'm not sure what the relevance of your question is.

Nobody has even tried to suggest that there is debate within the church on whether or not there is an atonement (in other words, that Yeshua was sacrificed in a divine plan), and it certainly was not my intention to claim that there is. So, to answer your completely pointless question, NO, there is no significant debate on whether or not Jesus was sacrificed on the cross: you invented that question yourself and it is not featured above in any respect other than the one you raised. That you raised it seems indicative of some confusion on your part with regard to the above post.

To go back to my original point. You clearly concluded that William was raising this simply "...in the interest of controversy..." [your words], rather than the fact that he raised it because there is actual serious debate, and always has been, about how the atonement works (in Will's words, "...contrasting "theories" of the atonement are the subject of intense debate by theologians across the world"). In post #64 I list some of the evidence for that debate because I thought that's what you were asking, since you seemed so reluctant to acknowledge the need for this post or the need to discuss ANY of the competing theologies of the atonement.

It's very evident to me from watching you post here for many months, PB, including this latest example, that you are opposed to discussions of anything that would risk your particular variety of faith looking like simply one option in a pool of theological choices. But that is quite truthfully the case, and the sooner you get used to it, the better -- especially on a blog discussing ethical and religious matters with people who have some diverse, very carefully considered points of view.

Now let's get to the bottom of this, if you actually have an opinion on the original post (which is what I was addressing).

A) Do you believe there is significant debate within the Christian church regarding the method of the atonement?

B) Which theory of the atonement do you subscribe to and why?

C) Do you have any valuable criticism of Jeffery John or Steve Chalke to offer relating to this thread?

PB- Re-reading this thread, I think I can see what you've done. You read my post #61 where I said that this debate is "...a discussion challenging the very IDEA of substitutionary atonement." I can only assume you were regarding the phrase "substitutionary atonement" as atonement in general. This is incorrect. Substitutionary atonement is but one of the competing theories of the atonement... see the link I provided in #64 for more information.

  • 69.
  • At 11:23 AM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


JW

I agree with the wikipedia link Will posted on this subject, which says;-

"...nearly [all] branches of the Christian faith embrace substitutionary atonement, while differing in their larger atonement theories. The Eastern Orthodox Church incorporates substitutionary atonement into a Christus Victor view, the Catholic church incorporates it into Aquinas' Satisfaction doctrine rooted in the idea of penance, and Evangelical protestants interpret it largely in terms of penal substitution."


Now read post 11 again, slowly, ie John 3:16;

Christ has asked people to BELIEVE in what he did in order to attain salvation; he did not ask they to completely understand it.

Dean John says :"It is a mystery we can hardly glimpse, let alone grasp".

Paul also writes in 1Tim;
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."

I agree with both Will and Dean John and Paul on these two points.


Man is made in God's image and so has the capacity for both righteous anger and love.

Paul in the letter to the Romans makes the point that God has both these sides to his character, wrath and love.

Wikipedia says of the letter: "The main theme of the letter is the salvation offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1:16 – 17). Paul argues that all humanity is guilty and accountable to God for sin and that it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that humanity can attain salvation. Therefore, God is both just [pb note: angered] and the one who justifies [pb note: loving]."


Paul writes in Romans 1;

"18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.."


Paul in Romans 5, as he developes his thesis;

"8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Dean John appears to be arguing that God was sympathising with us on the cross for being sinners through no fault of our own, ie that God has no right to judge us, it was not our fault.
He is arguing that the crucifixtion was not about God's wrath. But he is only half right.

Paul puts it into context in the above quotes and correcly points out it was both anger and love. read Romans through once and you will understand.

A father tells his daughter not to run out in front of traffic and she immediatley does it. Is he angered towards her or loving towards her? I would say both.

Will and Dean John, above, lending currency to the idea that the image of God as a "psychopath" angry with the world, are totally wrong.

Just read how this was taken up, wrongly, in post number 1.

But God is "a child killer" if you read Paul in Romans. But the child was in on it with God for our rescue mission.

In the broader picture I sense this debate, above, is trying to abdicate man of responsibility for his wrong doing, it is reflected in criminal trials where people are no longer "evil" for raping children but simply need therapy for "sickness".

There are too many people, dean John included, who read mere books and theorize but dont take seriously the root of the Christian faith, the bible. Madness.

Regarding further debate on the atonement, I am not up in it and have no time or desire to be so at the moment.

John 3:16 (post11) suffices for me right now. Remember Christ called for his disciples to have child-like faith;

Anyone who "clings to" Christ for their salvation is blessed of God John 3:16.

Do you "cling to Christ" or prefer to use him only as a point of intellectual stimulation?

PB


  • 70.
  • At 11:46 AM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


JW

You will see I am not getting into a debate about secondary issues of the atonement.

I am focussing on whether the cross was punishment and love at the same time. Compare and contrast;


Paul wrote in Romans;-

"God presented [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-26).


Compare that with Steve Chalke in the lost message of Jesus:

"The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse - a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement "God is love". If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil. The truth is, the cross is a symbol of love. It is a demonstration of just how far God as Father and Jesus as his Son are prepared to go to prove that love..."


Also worth noting that while Jesus taught people to love their enemies, his life upheld the role of the state to maintain law and order by balancing the scales of justice ie making punishments fit the crime. Chalke appears to have missed this.

PB

  • 71.
  • At 02:29 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW

A little greek study for you on the term "propitiation";-

http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/words.pl?strongs=2435


see also;-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propitiation

PB

PB- Thanks for your replies. As I see it, this thread is about the nature of the atonement, how it works and the mind of God behind it. The several competing theories of the atonement are possible explanations for the atonement, but the basic principle remains the same: to atone is to reconcile (humans to God).

I think the problem we have again is that you read the bible as the words of God to man, whereas I read the bible as the words of man about God. I agree that texts like Romans 5 do present a potential problem for people like Steve Chalke who want to hold to both divine authorship of the bible and a non-substitutionary view of the atonement. For me, though, I view Romans 5 as Paul's view only, not as the view. I read Romans 5 the same way I read Steve Chalke: both offer possible explanations of the atonement.

So which one do I believe? Well, ultimately I'm more persuaded by views like that of Jeffery John and Steve Chalke than I am by traditional evangelical teaching on the atonement, because I do think they have a point. I find it almost impossible to read, let alone share, Calvinist explanations of theology. But the main point I wanted to make here is that evangelical orthodoxy is not the only group of theology worth considering on matters such as this or any other.

  • 73.
  • At 06:17 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW

I see where you are coming from.

However, what is the difference between "evangelical orthodoxy" and what the bible actually says on this matter ie Romans 5?

You are explicitly putting Steven Chalke's book and the epistle to the Romans on the same par, as of the same value?????

The central thread of your view is that God does not display righteous anger against the sin of every man.

You are disputing the inspiration of Romans in order to sustain your view.

But I would argue that this side of God's character is evident in every book of the bible, alongside his compassion.

So no matter which book you would like to set aside, there is always another there to cause you problems.

PB

  • 74.
  • At 06:50 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

OK, let's have a think about this. Suppose there *is* a god, and it is pretty pissed off by this "sin" notion. It concocts this Brilliant Plan(TM), whereby it sends part of itself (a facet, if you will) to Earth, to become incorporated into a biological human organism, who then strolls around adopting precisely the role of the generic Galilean Holy Man in C1CE, at a time of great misplaced eschatological fervour. The Holy Man starts a riot in the Temple of Yahu, whereupon he gets crucified by the main power at the time (namely the Romans, who were not fond of That Sort of Thing), and then, *two* days later (in fact, just about 36 hours), this dead biological body goes missing, after being placed in a temporary tomb to get him over the Sabbath. Some distraught lassies pitch up at the tomb, and find the body is already missing. Some of the disciples report ghostie stories, and pretty soon the word gets around that the *reason* the body is missing is that he rose from the dead. So, the god, in order to fix his relationship with people (whom he is continuing to allow to be born in sin, remember), *requires* you to believe that this is True Bill, and this is indeed the Brilliant Plan(TM) for fixing the whole damn mess.

In order to make sure you *really* deserve to go to Heaven, there will be *no* evidence for this, other than the scribblings of some ancient punters (mutually contradictory of course), and the vague wafflings of people who have seen other people's "lives changed" by their "experience". That's about it.

Forgive me, but even *if* there is a god, and this *is* its Brilliant Plan, it is a fecking *stupid* Brilliant Plan. It is quite the daftest *possible* plan, in fact. If I may be permitted a theological assertion here, it is that any god sufficiently stupid to regard that as a Brilliant Plan is worthy only of the pity one would give a particularly thick puppy that incessantly pisses in its own bed.

*If* there is a god, I refuse to believe that it is *stupid*, or that it will regard "belief" in this nutty tale as a virtue. If anything, god would prefer to hang around with atheists. PB, I've seen it all before. I have walked the walk and talked the talk. I have led people to the Lord (and led several of them past too). It's not backsliding - there is something *beyond* Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. It's called secular humanism, and it's what any *sensible* god would want.

That's where Steve Chalke should be (and Jeffrey John). They're just a bit slow. They'll get there - they just need to do a bit more bible study.

PB- In response:

You ask: "What is the difference between 'evangelical orthodoxy' and what the bible actually says on this matter ie Romans 5?"

In the case of this single verse, very little. But evangelical theology needs to encompass the teachings of the entire bible and, moreover, resolve any percieved contradictions and reconcile any inconsistencies to do so. That, as to which history will attest, has been much more challenging.


"You are explicitly putting Steven Chalke's book and the epistle to the Romans on the same par, as of the same value?????"

They certainly aren't of the same historical value, nor of the same literary value or even theological value, no. Romans is by far the more valuable text, as Chalke would readily acknowledge! But both address the nature of the atonement, and both provide equally 'valid' views, insofar as those can be discerned.


"You are disputing the inspiration of Romans in order to sustain your view."

That's one way to put it. One could just as easily look at your approach and say that you are relying on the inspiration of Romans to sustain your view. Of the two, your relying upon inspiration is more difficult to defend and more problematic to explain. (That doesn't make it wrong, of course. It just means you have more work to do.)


Finally you say: "But I would argue that this side of God's character is evident in every book of the bible, alongside his compassion. So no matter which book you would like to set aside, there is always another there to cause you problems."

I don't regard Romans as any different in respect of theological authority than any other ancient text about God. If you look through the bible, you find that many of the authors of those texts viewed God as wrathful in some way: that only demonstrates that most of the biblical authors saw God as wrathful, not that he actually was. The biblical narrative is complicated, the theology moreso, and the literature extremely diverse.

When I read the bible, PB, I'm discovering what ancient Jews or early Christians thought about God (as well as many other things historically). When you read the bible, you believe you're discovering what God said and did through the divinely inspired actions of ancient Jews and early Christians. That's a key difference, which makes it difficult to find common ground.

  • 76.
  • At 09:29 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW

What authority do you use to define your faith and perception of God, to ensure you are not just making it up yourself?

Amenhotep
If you dont mind me askig, what actually triggered your exodus from the christian faith?

PB

PB- That's the $64,000 dollar question. :-)

  • 78.
  • At 11:19 AM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW
I think we have perhaps been down this route before and perhaps your answer was your "reason".

The clue could be in the name of your website.

However, if every man woman and child in the world defined God according to their reason they would come out with very different conceptions. So who is right? Doesnt seem to add up.

Also, do you believe in Christ, his death and resurrection for you personally?

PB

  • 79.
  • At 02:04 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Hi PB,
Happy to oblige. It was not an exodus - it was a journey *through* to the other side. It was a combination of study of the bible and study of the world. The bible does not permit us to draw the conclusion that Jesus *actually* rose from the dead - just that some people *believed* this. And that in a context where people rose from the dead at the drop of a hat. If Christianity were true, the central theme would be Very Important Indeed, and would need to be backed up with a powerful evidence base. Which it is not. The bible contains numerous flaws from the very first chapter onwards, which is entirely in keeping with its origins as an Ancient Near Eastern compilation, but entirely out of keeping for the "Word of God".

As I mentioned before, *even if* Christianity were true, the bible does not remotely offer enough evidence to make this judgement (nor does your wikipedia article!), and the only proper conclusion is to view it as false. The contradictions between the derivative gospels only consolidate this view. Jesus's bones are probably still lying somewhere in a tomb in the hills near Capernaum, but even if archaeologists found them, there'd probably be no way of telling who they belonged to.

Any god who would require people to believe such a pile of nonsense does not deserve our worship.

It's as simple as that.

  • 80.
  • At 03:38 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


cheers Amenhotep

You dont seem to have much tolerance for the Christian faith???

Live and let live?

Of course every critical assertion you make there is well dealt with by people with much more professional expertise in the subject than you or I.

But you dont really have the attitude to really discuss such things, as I see it.

So dont want to waste your time or mine,

till later

PB

PB- Your response #80 showed a lack of respect, if you ask me. You had asked the question of Amenhotep and he/she? responded very gracefully with the full answer including why he/she decided that Christian faith was not worthy of adherence.

Amenhotep- In #80, you mention the possibility of archeologists finding the bones of Jesus and not knowing they were his. There's every chance that's already happened. Check the fascinating discovery which was the focus of an incredibly detailed documentary earlier this year at Jesus Family Tomb. If they're right that the ossuaries were that of Jesus Christ, then unfortunately his skeletal remains have been reburied again somewhere near Jerusalem and probably will never be recovered.

  • 82.
  • At 10:17 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Cripes, PB, sorry to have hit a *nerve*! I have endless tolerance for the Christian faith - I simply regard it as untrue, just like Islam, Zoroastrianism, Mithraism and all the other "faiths" (which is a very friendly word for a highly dubious concept). I'm more than happy to live and let live. Are you?

You say: "Of course every critical assertion you make there is well dealt with by people with much more professional expertise in the subject than you or I."

No, not really. There are plenty of people who have managed to kid themselves into thinking that they are so smart that they can dodge the issues, but the issues remain. Augustine, Aquinas, CS Lewis, Alister McGrath - all is vanity. Christivanity, if you like.

Your attitude is illuminating - I've run across that manys a time from Christians, which is how a lot of them manage to suppress their curiosity about the world or their worldview.

Don't hold back - do you *really* think that a god who wanted to save humans from "sin" (whenever "sin" is arbitrarily defined as anything the god doesn't want, rather than something sensible) would cook up a plan to send one of its aspects to inhabit the body/brain of an intelligent primate, to get its heart stopped and brain emulsified a bit, and then reanimate it in SpookyVision(TM) for a couple of ghostie appearances in Jerusalem (if you believe Luke) or Galilee (if you believe the other lads)?

I remember thinking much as you do (although I seem to recall not being so obviously frightened to think "outside the box"). But when you eventually realise that Christianity is just as much a product of fertile human imaginations as (say) Shrek, you will start to a/ appreciate Jesus more, and b/ appreciate this marvellous universe more.

  • 83.
  • At 10:30 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

John, yes, I did hear about the "Jesus family tomb" story, but I don't give it a lot of credence. The young man at the temporary tomb very clearly states that the body was taken back to Galilee (for burial, evidently, although Luke arses up the statement - you should read all 4 gospels side by side on this), and that is where I'd expect to find the interments of other members of the family. I could be wrong, of course (because since when did the Bible become a reliable document???). However, the Jerusalem ossuaries most likely represent a different family (assuming that they are even genuine, given the fuss over the "James ossuary" and the "Josiah dedication").

  • 84.
  • At 10:45 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Purely by coincidence (or is it divine guidance?) I have just run across this:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1176152766396&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

Looks like the "Jesus tomb" is in some diffs...

Well, in fairness, the filmmakers never said this was definitely the tomb of Jesus. It was an exploration of the discovery, its likelihood of being Christ's tomb and its ramifications if true. Certainly a worthy project, if you ask me, and of course the discussion continues even on their own site.

  • 86.
  • At 04:22 PM on 13 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

JW, Amenhotep

Sorry if I came across hostile there, there was no intention and it certainly wasnt how I was feeling. I was just worn out.

Aemnhotep just seems so hostile and sarcastic (post 74 especially) he seems to have a massive chip on his shoulder. I cant help but feeling he turned his back on God because he felt God let him down badly or because a "Christian" abused him in some way. It just seems to be too big a chip on that there shoulder. Maybe I am wrong...

I dont think anything I have written comes anywhere close to the cutting attitude of post 74, I have to say. It is dripping with disdain.

But now that we are on the subject, Amenhotpe and JW for that matter, here are three questions;-

So a joiner of no position or rank has been honoured by most of the world with the date since he was born ie it is 2007 and the book of his life has outsold every other book in history by a mile.

Q1. If it was all true, how would history have turned out different, in contrast to your perception that it has all been a hoax? ie his divinity and resurrection?


Q2. What level of evidence would actually satisfy you that Christ is divine and rose from the dead. As I see it there is no level of evidence that could possibly satisfy you both because you have already made up your mind to reject it all.


Q3. Even if everything I believe is a hoax, and I spend my life serving and loving others with all my talents, obeying the law and looking after my family and spouse, what have I lost? I say nothing. On the contrary, even an athiest would look back fulfilled at a life like that.
But if I am right and you are wrong you risk losing your entire being for eternity. Whose approach is most wise?


Lastly amenhotep, you attack Christianity so persistently on this blog I just cant see how you think you have "endless tolerance" for it.

No offence meant or taken, be assured

Best
PB

  • 87.
  • At 05:10 PM on 13 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Well, PB, you continue to offer no evidence whatsoever that Christianity is "true", which is my entire point. If it were *important* to any hypothetical god, then it would make darned sure that it was at least backed up.

As for dating, get a grip. The years of the common era, sometimes referred to as "anno domini" were cooked up *centuries* (yes, *centuries*) after Jesus died by some monk. They are not even evidence that he even *existed* (although I feel that he probably did).

That a lot of people are christians is beyond doubt. A lot of people are muslims too, and presumably you think they're hellbound too, along with the Hindus and everyone else. The number of adherents is no indicator of whether a religion is true or not.

Yes, you're supposing that I have rejected Christianity (having been a Christian until my 20s) because of some deep personal trauma or disillusionment with some "Christian" that I respected. That ain't the case. I became an atheist because I could not continue to believe in a story that I felt was flawed and basically false. I could not continue to believe in god (bizarre as it may sound) because I ended up with too much respect for *Jesus* (not "Christ" - that is a fictional character). I actually finally became an atheist in Jerusalem, and it was the culmination of a long and arduous journey away from "faith". Sometimes in my weaker moments, I look back in nostalgia to my believer days. But as an atheist, life rocks big time, and every day is a joy.

As for "Pascal's wager", it's a pile of crap. If there is a god, it is far more likely to like scientists than people who pretend that the only way to get on its good side is to deify a chap who died a long time ago, to the exclusion of all else.

The most important thing Jesus ever said was the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is not your *religion* that counts, but your attitude and actions towards other people. If there is a god, *that* is what would make it tick, not belief in a flawed set of scribblings from the ancient world.

And regarding post 74, I am not digging at Christianity as a human cultural construct, but at people who regard it as the Only Way to get to the source of the universe. That is just nonsense.

Cheers,
-A

PB- You asked three questions of Amenhotep, which I'll try and put a slant on too:


Q1. If it was all true, how would history have turned out different, in contrast to your perception that it has all been a hoax? ie his divinity and resurrection?

Well I agree with Amenhotep that the number of adherents to a particular religion is completely irrelevant to the truthfulness of that religion. There are more adherents to other religions than there are to Christianity, but we don't see the need to ratify what belief in that religion entails either. History would definitely have been different had Mohammed not existed, or Buddha or any number of other key historical figures in addition to Jesus.


Q2. What level of evidence would actually satisfy you that Christ is divine and rose from the dead. As I see it there is no level of evidence that could possibly satisfy you both because you have already made up your mind to reject it all.

Well let me turn it around for a second. What level of evidence would satisfy you, PB, that we are merely brains in a jar being probed by alien scientists? The answer is that it's such a ridiculous notion from the start that you wouldn't even consider it necessary to look for evidence. In other words, if it were true, it would be so obvious and fundamental to existence that evidence would be abundant in the way that gravity or light is. Amenhotep considers Christianity in the same way.


Q3. Even if everything I believe is a hoax, and I spend my life serving and loving others with all my talents, obeying the law and looking after my family and spouse, what have I lost? I say nothing. On the contrary, even an athiest would look back fulfilled at a life like that. But if I am right and you are wrong you risk losing your entire being for eternity. Whose approach is most wise?

It's important to note that a Muslim could ask exactly the same question of you. What if you spend all this time doing things right according to the Christian religion and then die and find that Allah is going to punish you for not adhering to the teachings of Mohammed? Atheism and Christianity are not the only two options with a claim to being right. I think the problem with your approach is that you're only thinking of Christian faith and a biblical heaven when you ask the question. The part at the end of the question where you juxtapose the first part with the punishment for unbelief in hell is interesting because it still assumes that there aren't a bunch of the requirements of other religions to satisfy to ensure that you're not lost for eternity! For this approach to work, you'd have to:

a) identify the requirements of all religions, and
b) follow them all to ensure compliance.

Then if all of them are wrong except one, you can be sure that you've satisfied the requirements of that one. And if they're all wrong and Amenhotep is right, then you've 'lost nothing' because you've been a good person.

The problem is that all religions call it a sin to honour or comply with the gods of any other religions. AHA! The catch! You must choose only one to even comply fully with that one! Dammit.

(By the way, I find it interesting that you use the words "...losing your entire being for eternity..." - rather than 'be punished in hell for eternity.' Are you an annihilationist?)

  • 89.
  • At 06:13 PM on 14 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Oh, I didn't really answer the questions in order. Time for a distillation:

Q1. If it was all true, how would history have turned out different, in contrast to your perception that it has all been a hoax? ie his divinity and resurrection?

If it *were* true, we would not have to rely on the bible as a flawed human document. We would not have the absurd concept of a mere biological death (execution) being required for "atonement", and the need to *believe* in it would be non-existent. And it would work. We would have a clear unambiguous operations manual with specific protocols for specific situations, and a customer support line. It would be infallible. It would bear no resemblance to Christianity as we now have it.

Q2. What level of evidence would actually satisfy you that Christ is divine and rose from the dead. As I see it there is no level of evidence that could possibly satisfy you both because you have already made up your mind to reject it all.

Well, there was probably such a person as Jesus, but there was never a "Christ". As far as evidence is concerned, I'm a scientist. You have a hypothesis, that this Jesus chap was "divine" (whatever that means; you need to define that) and that he "rose from the dead". These are pretty spectacular claims, and need spectacular evidence. You don't have that. The resurrection stories are really very weak, and just tell us what some people believed; they don't actually evidence the core resurrection at all.

Q3. Even if everything I believe is a hoax, and I spend my life serving and loving others with all my talents, obeying the law and looking after my family and spouse, what have I lost? I say nothing. On the contrary, even an athiest would look back fulfilled at a life like that.
But if I am right and you are wrong you risk losing your entire being for eternity. Whose approach is most wise?

Mine, of course :-) If you have picked the wrong god, you're screwed.

-A

  • 90.
  • At 12:24 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Dear Amenhotep, Dear John Wright

I did progress through a lot of your comments to demonstrate that I was skipping anything, but you appear to have blanked the most important part of my answer, ie from where I begin to discuss the meaning and roots of "faith" at the end of post 90.

John wright, I direct the above par to you also...

Amen' I also notice that you still fail to discuss what happens to *you* when you die and what are all the possible outcomes of YOUR choices?
What evidence have you for what comes next and how are you choosing? John Wright, what do you say?

Are *you* both afraid to face these various possibilities?

I DO base my faith on the sinless perfection and ncessary divinity of Christ, which is and always has been at the core of the Christian faith.


There is actually no demand or pressure on me to justify any of my beliefs to anybody. They sit solidly with me and if you can't understand why then you have to review what I have said about faith vs intellect.

As you admit being familiar with all the main evidence, Amen', then I am quite puzzled by your admittedly repeated interrogations of Christians on this subject. If you know and reject the evidence why not move on and do something else with your time?


It is also interesting you describe faith as a "psychological prop".

And also that in your "weaker moments" you are nostalgic for your old faith.

What will happen to your perceptions in your *very* weakest moments I wonder?

I suggest the human condition is such that we are most "real" when we have been humbled, when our pride has been broken down, that this is when we get closest to "truth" and what really matters in life. Not when we are at our most successful and at the height of our powers.

Perhaps at such a time (deathbed???) you might go even further than "nostalgia" for your previous faith??? (No athiests in an earthquake, as the saying goes).

Your alleged examples of Christ sinning I dont think any serious religion scholar would take very seriously, and I certainly dont.

And when you say that Christ rejcted sinlessness by saying only God is good, this was in fact his challenge to those present to recognise his divinity. Bear in mind he also said "he who has seen me has seen the Father" in response to a request to see the Father. He also said "I and the Father are one".

I also notice you avoid discussing how you personally ascertain which portion of the bible to trust and which to reject, though you arbitrarily validate portions to support your arguments.

You dont have to be a scientist to demand evidence about the archeological and literary validity of the bible, but I assert that a scientist is not qualified to make global assertions about these fields as anything else but his own personal opinion or within his specific professional field, neither of which you appear to be doing.

I guess we are closing our discussion, which for me has been a useful excercise, so a sincere thanks, Amenhotep. God bless you.


JW

My answer to question 1 for Amenhotep also applies to you so I wasnt blanking you.

You have to undertsand faith does not rest in intellect, and that in fact that ultimately faith cannot rest on the intellect, which is an inherently contradictory expectation.

See what Paul says in 1 Corinithians 2 quote again. post 90

Till later, take care

PB

  • 91.
  • At 02:19 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

PB

Ten signs that you are a fundamentalist christian:

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your god.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanised" when scientists say that people evolved from lesser life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Trinity god.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" - including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loop-holes in the scientifically established age of the Earth (4.55 billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by pre-historic tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that the Earth is a couple of generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects -- will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet you consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving".

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to prove Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many Atheists and Agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

I think that you hit all 10!

PB, a lot of your assertions rest on forms of Pascals wager and fear of death, this has been answered before but which "brand" of Christianity should we accept on our deathbed? after all there are over 33,000 and a lot of these are mutually exclusive, also to hedge my bets I would also have to become Muslim-but which type? also Hindu, Sikh indeed I would have to accept every god/dess that ever existed and maybe some tribe who died out worshipped the only true god-in which case we are all "screwed"-I do believe that if there is a higher being they would prefer an honest doubter rather than someone hedging their bets-don't you?

As for Jesus and a sinless life I would echo the views of Amenhotep in that a perfect being would not lose their temper so much in that regard I believe that Socrates is a better example.

Regards

DD

  • 92.
  • At 05:51 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

DD

None of the points you raise accuratley represent my views or emotional temperature on them.

There is quite a distinction between fundamentalists and other types of Christian.
I can tell you fundementalists dont drink alchohol or believe in spiritual gifts or believe the KJV translation of the bible is fallible. And I believe all three. That is just a start.

If you read carefully what I have always said, I have *never* advocated any "brand" of Christianity, only the risen Christ himself.

sincerely

PB

  • 93.
  • At 06:37 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

PB,

They were a general "jokey" indicator on how to spot a fundamentalist.

Your view of Christianity is one, there are other Christians who would disagree.

Regards

DD

Like me, for example. PB's view of faith does not reflect my own, yet both of us are Christians.

  • 95.
  • At 09:19 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

forgive me DD

I failed to spot the "obvious" humour in post 91.

I somehow missed all the "jokey" bits and mistook them for vitriolic venom. Silly me!

;-)

Seriously though, I am glad to see they do not really reflect your views as I felt we had built up a little more respect than that, I hope!

John, what does being a Christian mean to you? You never did answer post 76! Can you give an answer?

Why bother to build your life around a mere man, as you appear to see Christ?

sincerely
PB


PS Dylan Dog, you never did give me any feedback on post 55, a question you asked me numerous times and to which I promised you a response. I know the answer wont impress you at all, but still interested in your feedback....


PPS I seriously think you need to educate yourself about what a fundamentalist is, I can assure u I am far from one!

  • 96.
  • At 10:00 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Hi PB,

Well, you're still here, which is to your credit :-) However, you are still trying to defend your views without adducing any evidence - I get the whole malarkey about "faith", but that is of zero value in deciding what is true. A question: can you *choose* to believe in something? Surely you either believe it or you don't? Say I (as a Christian) just simply cannot believe the resurrection - I see it as absurd. What are my options? Pray harder, so god will take away my unbelief? How then can I hope to reason with anyone (nudge nudge)?

Amen' I also notice that you still fail to discuss what happens to *you* when you die and what are all the possible outcomes of YOUR choices?

Well, I don't believe in any "life after death", so that's one thing. When I die, that's it for me - my life is a time-bounded thing. I don't need it to be eternal. Brain dies; the information in it dies. You may find this odd, but I do not have a problem with that, and the concept of death, while officially a "bummer" does not worry me unduly. Anyway, the person I was 10 minutes ago is already "dead" - the secret is to make life count here and now. And if I end up having a debriefing with some god-being? Well, we'll just see how that goes, won't we?

There is actually no demand or pressure on me to justify any of my beliefs to anybody. They sit solidly with me and if you can't understand why then you have to review what I have said about faith vs intellect.

Ah - the core of Christian apologetics. Fingers in the ears and la-de-da-de-da. Yup. Been there, done that. Only works for a while. Have fun. Some day you will realise that faith is a *vice* rather than a virtue. Never mind.

As you admit being familiar with all the main evidence, Amen', then I am quite puzzled by your admittedly repeated interrogations of Christians on this subject.

I *like* Christians. Some of my best friends are Christians. I want to help them. It's just the sort of nice person that I am. And every now and then, a little light goes on. A little light that won't be faced down by the la-de-da technique (vide supra). And that is very satisfying. If Jesus were alive today, I think he would approve.

If you know and reject the evidence why not move on and do something else with your time?

:-) I do have other irons in the fire.

It is also interesting you describe faith as a "psychological prop". And also that in your "weaker moments" you are nostalgic for your old faith. What will happen to your perceptions in your *very* weakest moments I wonder?

Yes, I'm actually human, funny enough, and subject to the same lapses of judgement that resulted in you ending up in your "faith position" too. I would hope that I would never get so demented that the nostalgia turned into an actual "yearning" - heck, no! ;-)

No athiests in an earthquake, as the saying goes

That sounds like a testable hypothesis. Let's see some data, please. I understand San Francisco has a lot of atheists (although I *don't* have data).

Your alleged examples of Christ sinning I dont think any serious religion scholar would take very seriously, and I certainly dont.

Well, why not? Come on, this is supposed to be a debate. Address the point. Why is Jesus not sinning when he's being cheeky to his ma or beating people up? I know "serious religion scholars" won't take these things seriously, but They Wouldn't, Would They.

And when you say that Christ rejcted sinlessness by saying only God is good, this was in fact his challenge to those present to recognise his divinity.

Cripes - look it up - Mark 10:17&ff. I don't think you're right there.

I also notice you avoid discussing how you personally ascertain which portion of the bible to trust and which to reject, though you arbitrarily validate portions to support your arguments.

Simple. I accept it all as evidence of what someone once thought and wrote down. Some of it is stupid (like classifying bats with birds, or suggesting that pigs are unclean, or that epilepsy is caused by evil spirits). Some bits we can look at, and see whether they make any sense in the overall context. There is a lot of good stuff in there, but it is not "revealed" - it is the sort of material that human cultures come up with routinely (you're probably not familiar with the Egyptian corpus, but I can read the Instructions of Amenemope and appreciate them, while still seeing some of the flaws). As it happens, in addition to being a scientist, I am a student of ancient Near Eastern history, so I think I am in a position to be able to judge a lot of this evidence. But I don't wish to argue from something so lame as *authority*.

I guess we are closing our discussion, which for me has been a useful excercise, so a sincere thanks, Amenhotep. God bless you.

Thanks, PB, and I hope that the light of Reason blesses you too.

  • 97.
  • At 11:13 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

Not vitriolic at all PB! it seemed like a pretty good summing up of the fundamentalist mindset.

I did read your response and found it to be a long exercise in attempting to excuse the inexcusable.

Unfortunately I have had experiences of fundamentalist, and you do seem to fulfil some of the pointers...

  • 98.
  • At 11:17 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Dear Amen

You dont mind me calling you that do you? ;-)

I dont think you are thinking enough about the limitations of *your* worldview and science in particular.

You really dont need me to detail all the things it cant do and cant answer with science, do you?

It seems to me you are like a mechanic who demands that I explain God using a car manual. I just dont believe it is possible.

And I believe you have allowed a good servant (science) to become your cruel master.

You just cant run your life on science, come on.

You cant even come to a scientific deicision about what parts of your life should be run by science and what cant.

Case in point; what evidence can you provide me to support your assertion that your life/personality/soul fizzles into nothing when you die?

Way I see it you cant provide jot.

Yet you make your own "faith" assertions about what you believe will happen when you die. But based on what empirical reseach and peer published papers???

;-)

To me faith can be either of the Augustine kind or the child like kind.

God used Paul's intellect (his book of Romans was and may still be used in QUB law degree I believe to display argument development).

And you can debate from now until eternity about predestination and free will in salvation (doubt and belief in the resurrection as you put it).

But to me your answer need not be complicated.

Jeremiah 29:13 (King James Version)

"13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

PB

  • 99.
  • At 11:34 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

BTW Amen, see you are a student of ancient near Eastern history and so have some authority in this field.

Might it therefore add anything to our discussion I were to likewise reveal to you that I happen to be a student of the bible and Christian theology?

;-)

PB

  • 100.
  • At 12:06 PM on 16 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Hi PB,
Well, if you can't answer a question by science, what makes you think you can answer it by appealing to gods and other assorted supernatural beings? Surely a provisional "haven't a baldy" is required here, rather than ascribing it to some effing ineffable?

Why is it even a question at all?

"I" am a neurobiological system; I know perfectly well what happens to that system when I die. If you are proposing some ongoing "existence" of some "soul" or whatever, you need to provide evidence for that. It's not for me to *disprove* it.

As for the ancient history business, I just mention that as a small area of very limited expertise that I do have; any *arguments* that I make live or die, not from that standpoint or any authority so derived, but on their own merit. Arguments from authority (be they from Jesus, Paul, Einstein or Groucho Marx) are invalid.

Tell me this: do you ever wonder whether your god exists?

ATB,
-A

  • 101.
  • At 04:51 AM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Amen

No, as I said before, I honestly never doubt that God exists, that he is one with Christ or that he gave his life for me and rose again.

The only thing I doubt is my own committment and holiness.

So now you admit your expertise in this field is "limited" and that your arguments stand or fall on their own merits?

You sound particularly like Dawkins in your approach to all this. But as Plantinga said recently, NONE of Dawkins' arguments would pass muster in a basic philsophy class, he is simply cobbling together popular platitudes for the masses in order to sell books. That is why he refuses to publicly debate with Plantinga and his kind.

I am not meaning to be rude, but I just wanted to recap a little;-

I dont think I find any of your arguments or lines of questioning very logical.

In fact, after reflection I think you are only just, as we say, "having a laugh"; like a playful child slapping down the newspaper I am studying to giggle with glee in my face. It is just "sport" for you?

Your arbitrary quoting of the bible, one minute validating and the next minute denigrating. Your totally unqualified implications that it does not stand as rock solid documents in its own right but is mere "propaganda".

That the date, 2007, is a cosmic accident.

Your casting aside lesser and greater thinkers of world history with hardly a word of explanation (you have no personal philsophy of science to be scrutinised of course!).

Your assumptions that your life and all aspects of life can be ruled by science.

Your assertion one minute that there is no God and yet contemporaneously postulating "if there is a God..."

Your totally ungrounded assertions about what will happen to your personality after you die, yet your insistence that I provide you with scientific evidence for what will happen to me after *I* die????????

By your argument, every arts and theology faculty the world over should be subsumed by scientists, who would fascistically scrutinise before forbidding or permitting every note to be played, every brush stroke to be painted, every stanza to be recited, every question to be asked, every hymn to be sung.

You would bring into the lab your personal relationships, your choice of home and decor, every restuarant menu you ever choose from, every symphony you every listened to, every athiestic "joy" (however you scientifically define that), every holiday you ever took, every dawn chorus, every sunset, every commitment ever made to you by a loved one, every kiss, every birth of every child, the laughter of every child...


Either all of this is true, or you are simply having a "laugh with" me?

At least, that is the conclusion I have come to...

If 1% of men down through the span of history develop a tool they called "science" and 50% of them claim this refutes God, does God still believe in them? I would say yes.

What IS unique about Christianity compared to ALL other religions, is that God is a Father who does not require his children to constantly work for his approval, through the grace of calvary.

There is *nothing* else in history -egyptian or otherwise - to compare to that.

And whether you continue to have a laugh or step outside YOUR box in one of your "weaker" moments of "nostalgia" is entirely your decision.

I do hope sometime you just might.

I appreciate your humour and challenge...

PB

PS a bit pesky you have to preview this thread to read it, isnt it?

  • 102.
  • At 10:09 AM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

On a small point PB, Richard Dawkins recently debated Alistair McGrath and even people sympathetic to McGrath admitted that Dawkins won the debate.

I really don't think that you "get" what Amenhotep is trying to say to you.

Also finally all religions are "unique" i.e., Hinduism is unique in comparison to Islam, Islam is unique in regards to Buddhism which is unique in regards to Christianity and so on...

And if you are the one making claims ie., eternal life, the soul etc it is up to you to provide the evidence...

Regards

DD

  • 103.
  • At 12:29 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Sorry DD

In all religion you have to earn brownie points with God to be accepted; you never know it you are.

Christianity is the only option where God gives his approval by grace (without merit) to those that ask for it.

I think you are missing my point; I dont have to prove anything to you.

Science cannot prove OR disprove God.

Faith actually means "trust" which is a concept you cannot prove in a lab.

PB


  • 104.
  • At 12:54 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

PB

and uniqueness in terms of religion is relative.

Islam is unique in terms of...Buddhism is unique in terms of...etc etc

But PB you are the one making claims of eternal life therefore it is on you to provide evidence to back this up.

You are right science cannot prove/disprove your god, Allah, Zeus, Amon-Ra, fairies etc etc

Faith also means belief without evidence

  • 105.
  • At 02:30 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

DD

No, I personally dont make the claims of eternal life.

This has been the position of the Christian faith and bible for 2000 years, not my opinions.

Whether I try to justify them to you or not, they will persist as they have done for millenia.

There is no onus on me to try and prove the unproveable to you.

PB


  • 106.
  • At 02:37 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

Hi PB,

Your unquestioning acceptance of the existence and character of your god is touching, but your inability to justify believing in *that* god as opposed to the many others on offer (or, even better, none at all) is a bit cowardly, wouldn't you agree? You seriously never doubt your god? What would convince you that your god *doesn't* exist? (You'll recall asking me a question similar to this previously).

So now you admit your expertise in this field is "limited" and that your arguments stand or fall on their own merits?

Precisely. Arguments stand or fall depending on the character of the argument, not the arguer. Jesus could have said that the moon was made of green cheese, and you would accept that unquestioningly. That, dare I say it, EVEN if he had been the "Son of God" or a "Christ", would be a really daft thing to do. Yet that is precisely what creationists do (for instance).

You sound particularly like Dawkins in your approach to all this.

Oh, you old flatterer! ;-)

But as Plantinga said recently, NONE of Dawkins' arguments would pass muster in a basic philsophy class

And just what does Plantinga know about any of this anyway? I would suggest that *your* arguments don't even qualify as *arguments*. Reason trumps faith every time.

Your arbitrary quoting of the bible, one minute validating and the next minute denigrating. Your totally unqualified implications that it does not stand as rock solid documents in its own right but is mere "propaganda".

Oh - the propaganda aspect is Biblical all right. Look it up. End of John's gospel. I don't recall using the word "mere". It is a human set of documents. It has its flaws, but so do all. It also has its uses. But it is not the "Word" of some god-thing or other. It's human. Quite how you could read the 4 gospels and NOT come to that conclusion is quite staggering.

That the date, 2007, is a cosmic accident.

Please! It is NOT "cosmic". It is merely an arbitrary number. Are you one of those people who celebrates clocking up another 10,000 miles on your car? It has exactly the same significance of the regnal years of Rameses II, or the years of Queen Elizabeth (except in the case of the Queen we know that they are *right*). I remember my minister coming out with this argument when I was in primary school. It was crap then, and it's crap now.

Your casting aside lesser and greater thinkers of world history...

Come back to me when they say something relevant.

Your assumptions that your life and all aspects of life can be ruled by science.

I don't recall saying that. I do know that life cannot/should not be ruled by unevidenced belief in fairies, and that "religion/faith" is no different, and only serves to cloud moral/ethical issues, not make them clearer.

Your assertion one minute that there is no God and yet contemporaneously postulating "if there is a God..."

I have not asserted that there is no god. I do not think it likely that there are gods (after all, there is no evidence for them), but I can play with the model and think outside the box. A skill which you sadly seem to lack in a BIG way. Life must be fun in the concrete PB household. Do you dream? Do you wish? Have you hopes, desires, speculations? Can you accommodate multiple models of reality in your head?

Your totally ungrounded assertions about what will happen to your personality after you die, yet your insistence that I provide you with scientific evidence for what will happen to me after *I* die????????

Ha ha! Please be assured I am not asking you to commit suicide :-) Face it - you're just making it up (or, rather, parroting what someone else made up). I am happy for my life to be bounded by cradle and grave - what matters is what one does in between time.

By your argument, every arts and theology faculty the world over should be subsumed by scientists, who would fascistically scrutinise before forbidding or permitting every note to be played, every brush stroke to be painted, every stanza to be recited, every question to be asked, every hymn to be sung.

No - that's stupid. You don't need gods to enjoy arts and culture (or even religion!). Humans are humans. Funny enough, it is Christians and Muslims who are the most potent censors of the above joys. Fancy depicting the human form! Blasphemy! Fancy Madonna playing at a crucifiction motif! Blasphemy! I think you will find that scientists have as much fun as anyone else. Creativity and artistic flair are remarkably common among the very best scientists.

Either all of this is true, or you are simply having a "laugh with" me?

Both, in fact. You inhabit a very constrained reality...

What IS unique about Christianity compared to ALL other religions, is that God is a Father who does not require his children to constantly work for his approval, through the grace of calvary. There is *nothing* else in history -egyptian or otherwise - to compare to that.

Oh, you obviously haven't really looked into this in depth then, have you? Poor thing. I suggest you gen up on Ancient Egyptian religion. Some of it is very moving (in fact, some of the Old Testament derives from Egyptian sources, such as much of the Book of Proverbs). You should also check out Atenism, which is a fascinating excursus. Everybody loves their god, and thinks that they are Special.

I appreciate your humour and challenge...

Likewise :-)

-A

  • 107.
  • At 04:07 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

PB

You do know that other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have been making claims for longer than Christianity does that make them more "true"?

"There is no onus on me to try and prove the unprovable to you."

However you are asking other posters to back their claims up with evidence, it's a bit unfair to clam up when it comes to your own.

  • 108.
  • At 05:12 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Amen

okay okay, my life officially moves on now!!!

cu in later postings

PB

  • 109.
  • At 06:56 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:

... perhaps your best evidence is that faith actually does exist...

- FIN -

PB

  • 110.
  • At 10:15 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • Amenhotep wrote:

er, OK... so... I suppose I win then? Flip - that was easy!

OK, over to other threads (this one is far too long anyway ;-)

  • 111.
  • At 04:59 AM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Amen

If it is simply the last word that wins, then I win, or we can keep going ad infintum with silly posts like these.

IN general your arguments overtstepped the mark of your authority and any authorities in general. I am not sure that was a win.

PB

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