I read the Gospels to get to know Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. For a long time I would basically gloss over or outright reject the miracles in the story as legendary accounts, particularly the birth narratives. I wanted insight into he who “made our hearts burn” and sparked a faith that has lasted millenia. It seemed to me that miracles and such obscured who Jesus was: more ignorance from my post-Enlightenment indoctrination. I won’t make that mistake again.
I read the Gospels to get to know Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. For a long time I would basically gloss over or outright reject the miracles in the story as legendary accounts, particularly the birth narratives. I was deeply interested in Jesus of Nazareth the man first, because that is how he become known. I wanted insight into he who “made our hearts burn” and sparked a faith that has lasted millenia. It seemed to me that miracles and such obscured who he was: more ignorance from my post-Enlightenment indoctrination. I won’t make that mistake again.
As Bart Ehrman writes:
The Christian Gospels
- The Gospels are best seen as ancient biographies of Jesus
- Ancient biographies had several distinctive characteristics:
- They were usually based on oral and written sources (sometimes biographers showed a preference for the oral).
- They were less concerned with relating historical events than with showing the character of the main figure through his or her words, deeds, and interactions.
- They did not utilize “character development,” since most ancient people believed that a person’s character was relatively constant throughout his or her life.
- They often portrayed the main figure’s character at the very outset of the narrative.
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings p.65, Box 4.2
Continue reading “What the Gospels Are”
When I originally read Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God I didn’t get it when she described myth as an alternate way of arriving at very human truths. I was still all too indoctrinated. But as I’ve studied the history of my faith, I learned a thing or too from real and actual scholars.
One of the problems I’ve had in the past with my Christian faith was myth. This is because I had always been unconsciously credulous in accepting the common wisdom that myth equals lie. And further that people who believed myths were credulous fools. Modernity is, after all, dominated by scientific (materialist?) rationalism. It made the myths of my faith occasions for scorn and even anger. Who could believe such drivel? The ancients were barbaric, backward fools! Why should we listen to anything they had to say? Even apologetic attempts to justify these myths by fundamentalists betrayed the insecurity these myths produced because of their lack of rationality and adherence to scientific truth. And so the indoctrination went.
Well, no longer.
Continue reading “Truth of Mythic Proportions”
I decided to write about this because it makes Twitter much less of a burden. It’s too imprecise to express real ideas on a micro-blogging service more amenable to smart ass comments than substance, so I do so here.
I decided to write about this because it makes Twitter much less of a burden. It’s too imprecise to express real ideas on a micro-blogging service more amenable to smart ass comments than smart ones, so I do so here. I borrowed heavily from John F. Haught’s book God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Great read. He summarizes my intellectual critique of The New Atheism or as I like to call it, The Church of No-God, quite nicely. Generally when I use the word “atheist” in this post, I’m referring to this group.
Let me make clear that this post is not written to make the case that atheists should be believers nor is it an attempt to denigrate them, their personal beliefs (unbeliefs?), or choices in life. It is neither an apologetic for my spirituality nor an attempt at evangelism. I’m writing to explain why atheism has proven problematic for me, nothing more, nothing less. Take it or leave it.
Finally, this post has been edited multiple times as my discussions with saner, less ideological atheist tweeples and further reading have informed my thinking.
For several reasons atheism for me is not, as William James put it, “a living option“:
- I can’t with integrity subscribe to a professed rational philosophy that is based on a self-refuting principle, i.e. the Verification Principle.
- I have never believed religion and science are enemies or even incompatible. Even as a child, I saw their easy compatibility and complementary natures. Militant atheists aren’t going to fare any better than strongly opinionated believers/science deniers.
- I strive for consistency in my beliefs. Being an atheist would require I subscribe to moral nihilism: the logical result of “facing up to reality” or “growing up” to face of an indifferent universe devoid of meaning. I can’t abide by that because it produces evil.
- Finally, atheism is unable to give me meaning in life. Science and reason alone are painfully inadequate for assessing the important things in life and of being human: Love, Justice, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Truth. Avoiding error at all costs just isn’t worth that sacrifice.
If you care for an explanation, please, read on.
Continue reading “Why I’m not an Atheist”
“We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!’ The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” What does that say about minimum wage?
USCCB | NAB – September 19, 2010:
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!’ The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: ‘Never will I forget a thing they have done!'”
(Via United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
This was the First Reading at Mass this morning on the theme of the day: socio-economic justice. I always read this Bible passage as a general attack on the exploitation of the poor and so it is. But it’s worth examining exactly what’s going on here. Diminishing the ephah and adding to the shekel is pretty straightforward: It’s evil to cheat the poor. But buying the lowly for silver the the poor for a pair of sandals hit me because it speaks to the morality of living wages and paying people below them.
Continue reading “Amos on Economic Justice”
Recently, I was taken to task about the morality of homosexuality and how the Bible “clearly” teaches it’s practice is a sin. Frankly, I never believed that and having other priorities chose not to bother examining the issue other than cataloguing some verses. Other things are important to me in my faith journey. But given all the proud bigotry surrounding so-called “gay marriage” and the civili rights of LGBT persons I’m seeing, I decided to give it a look see.
UPDATE: The post has been updated for clarity and to reflect an evolving understanding of my LBGT brothers and sisters.
Recently, I was taken to task about the morality of
homosexuality gay individuals having intimate relations with their beloved and how the Bible “clearly” teaches such is a sin. Frankly, I never really believed that and having other priorities chose not to bother examining the issue other than cataloguing some verses. Other things are were important to me in my faith journey. But given all the proud bigotry I’m seeing, surrounding so-called “gay marriage” and the civil rights of LGBT persons, I decided to give it a look see.
Continue reading “On Rooting for The Gays”
Recently one of my more devout friends got into a mini-debate about so-called Creation Science and the veracity of the Bible as a scientifically true book. His pièce-de-résistance was the article below. It’s not my purpose here to refute Creation Science itself, but to refute calling it true science. It is, like phrenology, a pseudo-science.
Recently one of my more devout friends got into a mini-debate about so-called Creation Science and the veracity of the Bible as a scientifically true book. His pièce-de-résistance was the article quoted below. It’s not my purpose here to refute Creation Science itself, but to refute calling it true science. It is, like phrenology, a pseudo-science. Continue reading “Theoretical Creative Destruction”
Last week I had a disagreement with my pastor over the nativity stories and their veracity as history at Bible study (a story for another day) that got me to thinking about nativity scenes and the old and tired battles about truth and the Bible. However, it never ceases to amaze me how people avoid facing facts in service to what they believe (and this includes you athiests out there, perhaps especially so given recent events). I think it has to do with our need to order our world and make it comprehensible, predictable in some way. I’m not judging whether this is bad or good, just the way it is often discussed in a less than honest fashion IMHO. So back to the nativity.
The discussion at Bible study turned to Christ’s birth and I remember Father speaking of eyewitnesses, etc. I objected to this because there are lots of problems with claiming the birth stories together are eyewitness accounts and are therefore history, at least history of a sort. Even our understanding of the nativity as an amalgam of Luke and Matthew has issues. In the end, magi offering gifts to a babe laid in a manger is not a scriptural scene. In other words it’s not in the Bible. Yet we see nativity scenes in front of plenty of churches and have kids play out Christmas plays every year, traditions that I think speak to a deep need to make the separate stories in Luke and Matthew make sense together and support our faith in a modern world.
And I’m OK with that as long as we are honest and up front about it. When a believer goes into spin mode in an attempt mask the simple fact that Jesus’ birth is a historical mystery beyond the tradition that holds that he was born of a virgin in Bethlehem of Judea a little over two millenia ago, it’s worse than an outright lie, it’s a con job: an attempt to fool another person ( or oneself!) through trickery.
I know such language is harsh and unforgiving but we all know whose game lies and trickery is. It’s important we don’t succumb to such temptations to speak in half truths which are whole lies. It besmirches the Gospel which is so dear to us.
In the previous post we looked at out faith informs our culture and values. Now for a look at Sacred Scripture
African-American spirituality is based on the Sacred Scriptures. In the dark days of slavery, reading was forbidden, but for our ancestors the Bible was never a closed book. The stories were told and retold in sermons, spirituals and shouts. Proverbs and turns of phrase borrowed freely from the Bible. The Bible was not for our ancestors a mere record of the wonderful works of God in a bygone age; it was a present record of what was soon to come. God will lead his people from the bondage of Egypt. God wil preserve his children in the midst of the fiery furnace. God’s power will make the dry bones scattered on the plain snap together, and he will breathe life into them. Above all, the birth and death, the suffering and the sorrow, the burial and the resurrection tell how the story will end for all who are faithful no matter what the present tragedy is.
For Black people the story is our story; the Bible promise is our hope. Thus when the Word of Scripture is proclaimed in the Black community, it is not a new message but a new challenge. Scripture is part of our roots; the Bible has sunk deep into our tradition; and the Good News of the Gospel has been enmeshed in our past of oppression and pain. Still the message was heard and we learned to celebrate in the midst of sorrow, to hope in the depths of despair and to fight for freedom in the face of all obstacles. The time has now come to take this precious heritage and to go and “tell it on the mountain.” [emphasis mine]
The Bible is everywhere in our culture and community. Even a Muslim preacher can get a church full of Christians to stand up and clap with a little John 10:11-12 and some 2 Chronicles 7:14. Turns of phrase are so ingrained we can repeat them almost automatically when called out. The inevitable response to, “To whom much is given…,” is of course, “Much is required.” (Lk 12:48) These phrases are like inside jokes, incredibly pregnant with meaning. MLK said, “I’ve been to the mountain top…I have seen the promised land.” Even Tavis Smiley’s and Cornel West’s Covenant with Black America has no meaning if you don’t have a deep sense of the Bible.
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