Showing posts with label Mere Christianities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mere Christianities. Show all posts

Quote of the Day On Theism, by ephemerol

There is no such thing as "theism," in the same way as there's no parents with 2.4 children and you can't walk into a general store and purchase a nonspecific item. If you're trying to make a case for Jesus, you should do exactly that and nothing less than that, and not dither about. You're just wasting everyone's time pretending to argue for deism and agnosticism as though that would ever advance the case for Jesus. It can't.

Quote of the Day By a Christian, Proving There Is No Such Thing as Christianity, Only Christianities

I don’t believe that God has explicitly revealed anything to us as a human race, and it’s here that I part ways with the traditions of mainstream Christianity...So why do I hold this belief, despite my self-identification as a Christian? Well for one thing, if the Bible is God’s be-all end-all of revelatory knowledge, he seems to have done a poor job of unambiguously alerting us to this fact. Are all the individuals who were raised Muslim, or Mormon, or Hindu just supposed to have a Damascus Road experience, and subsequently bow down to the book that completely contradicts their own worldviews that they have been indoctrinated with? Were all the millions of individuals who have perished, and continue to perish, without accepting the “good news” of Christianity simply being rebellious sinners who resisted God’s clear revelation? Forgive me, but I find this to be ridiculous...

This leads us to another point, namely that the act of God supposedly choosing prophets to privately record his revelation seems extremely problematic. Understand that inspiration by God of prophets in order to expound revelation is a private and subjective experience, on the part of the prophet. So how can we, who are not in any way involved in this experience, ever objectively verify that God is behind the scenes pulling the strings, as it were? As outsiders we are in no epistemic position to affirm, or deny, that an individual is indeed a spokesman for the big man upstairs. The role of prophet, then, as a medium for revelation is not satisfactory—at least not if God wants this revelation to be clearly given to all mankind.

This isn’t even the worst part, however,

There is No Such Thing As Theism or Christian Theism or Mere Christianty

In an earlier post I had argued there is no such thing as "theism" or "Christianity" or "Mere Christianity." Link. In a post where Jeffery Jay Lowder says he doesn't know whether religion causes more harm than good I brought this up, saying religion like theism or Christan theism or mere Christianity does not exist in the abstract. Bradley Bowen, who writes for Lowder for the Secular Outpost responded. Here is what he wrote and my subsequent response:

There is No Such Thing as "Theism," "Christian Theism" or "Mere Christianity"

A recent book edited by evangelicals is titled, Debating Christian Theism.It looks very good if for no other reason than that the authors on the opposing side are good ones. The glaring problem however, is that the authors in this book who represent Christianity are, generally speaking, evangelicals. Evangelicals write the chapters on all the key issues defending "Christian Theism" in this book. One would expect this, since the book is edited by evangelicals. But why do they get to define "Christian Theism"? There is no such thing, as there is no such thing as "theism" or "Mere Christianity" either. These evangelicals are co-opting the term "Christian Theism" for themselves. The book title is a misnomer, even a fraud. It should be titled, "Debating Evangelicalism," or "Debating Evangelical Theism." If I were writing a chapter in this book and I had the space I would point this fraud out. There are only theisms, Christian theisms and Christianities. Below are the table of contents. See for yourself:

A Pragmatic Approach to Evangelicals, Calvinists, and Presuppositionalists

There are various perspectives among people who criticize religion. 1) There are critiques of religion coming from within each one of them over specific doctrines; 2) There are critiques coming from former believers of a specific religion; 3) There are deistic critiques of all "revealed" religions, 4) There are agnostic critiques of all metaphysical claims; 5) There are atheist critiques of all religion, and with it faith itself.

My present perspective is represented by (2) and (5). But I have embraced all five of them in my intellectual journey from believer to atheist. So, being the pragmatist that I am, let me introduce just a few selected Christian works on biblical issues that should shake most evangelicals, Calvinists, and presuppositionalists to the core, representative of (1) above.

If Christianity Were True Compared With If Christianity Were False

One of the things Bayesian thinking requires from us, aside from thinking exclusively in terms of the probabilities, is that we must compare the probabilities of alternative hypotheses. I don't do the math though, since I have a hard time assigning numbers to the probabilities. For instance, is it 1 in 100,000 that Jesus was raised from the dead, 1 in a million, 1 in a billion, or is it 1 in 60 billion (the number of homo sapiens that have ever walked the earth)? It's probably the later. Nonetheless, I can get along just fine without stating these numbers. It communicates better to the non-technical person, the educated person in the pew, the university student. So, let's compare these two hypotheses: 1) If Christianity were true what would we expect to find? 2) If Christianity were false what would we expect to find? Then let's see how each hypothesis fares. Join in with me.

Are the Differences Between the Christianities Insignificant?

Here at John Loftus' blog Debunking Christianity it's been emphasized many times by blog post authors and commenters alike that there exists no such thing as a Christianity, there being instead many Christianities. In fact there are so many Christianities with so many differences between them that the word "Christian" is useless, even for the purposes of rough outline, as a guide to what someone self-identifying as Christian thinks or believes about their own religion. This includes what they believe about gods, heaven, hell, the Bible, prayer, and miracles. In response Christians have maintained that of course there is variation in belief among the various Christian groups, but the differences are insignificant, subtle alternative interpretations. In this post I'm going to share with you an essay from Harry T. Cook which demonstrates that the differences between those calling themselves Christian are anything but insignificant.

The Argument From Christian Diversity: There is No Such a Thing as “Mere Christianity”

[Written by John W. Loftus] That Christianity is a diverse phenomena cannot be doubted. But it is diverse not only in the number of denominations but also within each denomination itself (follow the links):

Stupid is As Stupid Does: Defending the Faith Makes a Person Stupid

When it comes to defending the faith even PhD's show they are ignorant. I'm not joking either and it should be obvious to see. I previously endorsed Richard Dawkins' column on Pat Robertson's comments about the Haitian disaster. Then comes Glenn Peoples who said of me:

C. Michael Patton on Essential Creedal Expressions for Christian Salvation

C. Michael Patton has come up with a list of essentials that true Christians must believe along with a chart that supposedly distinguishes what is non-essential from unimportant beliefs. Here are the essentials according to him:

Are Liberals "Intellectually Dishonest"?

In the first comment below this post Bruce the Agnostic asked me whether liberals are intellectually dishonest not to jump ship like I did, once they recognize there is no objective basis for Christianity. It was a good question that gave me pause. Do I think this? Yes I do, but let me explain.

How would you describe someone who undermines the objective basis for Christianity at every turn but then turns around and professes to be a Christian? I know, I know, the Christianity they profess isn't the one they deconstruct. I do think people are not honest with themselves. We probably all are to some degree about some things. We may think we're handsome or good at something when we're not. We may excuse our behavior and think we've done good things when deep inside we know we've done wrong. I think the intellectually honest thing to do is to abandon any profession of Christianity once it’s recognized that Jesus did no miracles, was wrong about the eschaton, didn’t fulfill OT prophecy, and did not bodily rise from the dead. I mean really, what does professing to be a Christian mean at that point when it’s recognized that Jesus was a failed doomsday prophet like a plethora of them have been who have come and gone?

I’ll tell you what I think. I think such a profession is merely to stay within a group, a group of people who do the same things, much like the Moose Lodge, the Elks, or Eagles at that point. Is this meaningful to people who profess such things? Yes. But there is no basis for doing so. Christianity becomes a mere label at that point which some people have applied to Americans as a whole: “I’m an America so I’m a Christian.” Is that meaningful? Again, yes, and it may be the true definition of a Christian since Christianity is a culture. All I’m doing is making a case and stating it in as forceful of a way as I can. Will liberals agree? No. But I want to force them to say that their version of Christianity is very far from anything that any Christian of the past would accept. The truth is that liberals did not arrive at their position by a process of abstract reasoning. No. They were forced into it against their preferences by the progress of the sciences. I think they should just acknowledge that and admit they have cut themselves off from any historic understanding of what defines a Christian and then say, "but we like being with these people in this group because we like people."

Part 2, The Problem With Liberal Theology


As an atheist I am no longer in the habit of telling Christians what they should believe. I tell them to hammer it out between themselves and come back to inform me of the consensus, since I’ll be waiting in the wings to debunk what’s left over. I agree with the criticisms the social trinitarians offer against the non-social trinitarians, and vice versa. I agree with the Calvinist criticisms of Arminian interpretations of the Bible as well as with the Arminian criticisms of Calvinistic interpretations of the Bible. I agree with the Protestant criticisms of the Catholics as well as the Catholic criticisms of the Protestants. And I also agree with the fundamentalist criticisms of the liberals as well as the liberal criticisms of the fundamentalists. When they criticize each others views I think they’re all right! What’s left is the demise of Christianity as a whole. After they fight out to a draw in each disputed case there is nothing left for me to debunk except their shared common belief in God (a non-trinitarian one) along with their religious experiences as a pointer to God.

When it comes to the liberal/fundamentalist debate, I thought about starting a Blog to let the liberals and fundamentalists fight it out! But then it dawned on me that the liberals would win that debate, at least in my mind (the only mind that counts is what each one of us thinks, correct?). In fact, in my book I use the writings of the liberals to debunk evangelical Christianity much of the time. They simply are on the side of truth. They have better scholars.

Without wanting to do a great amount of research at this time on liberal theology, let me begin by quoting from Wikipedia on it:

Liberal Christianity, broadly speaking, is a method of biblical hermeneutics, an individualistic method of understanding God through the use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings. Liberal Christianity is not a belief structure, and as such is not subject to any Church Dogma or creedal statements. Unlike conservative Christianity, it has no unified set of propositional beliefs. The word liberal in liberal Christianity denotes a characteristic willingness to interpret scripture without any preconceived notion of inerrancy of scripture or the correctness of Church Dogma. A liberal Christian, however, may hold certain beliefs in common with traditional, orthodox, or even conservative Christianity.

Liberal Christianity was most influential with mainline Protestant churches in the early 20th century, when proponents believed the changes it would bring would be the future of the Christian church. Despite that optimism, its influence in mainline churches waned in the wake of World War II, as the more moderate alternative of neo-orthodoxy (and later postliberalism) began to supplant the earlier modernism. Other theological movements included political liberation theology, philosophical forms of postmodern Christianity such as Christian existentialism, and conservative movements such as neo-evangelicalism and paleo-orthodoxy.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw a resurgence of non-doctrinal, scholarly work on biblical exegesis and theology, exemplified by figures such as Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong, and Douglas Ottati. Their appeal is also primarily to the mainline denominations.

The father of modern liberalism is widely considered to be Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), and Norman Geisler’s description of his theology is good enough for now:

As the father of modern liberalism, he influenced most major liberals after him, among them Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), Critical History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation; Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930), What is Christianity?, and Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918), who wrote Introduction to the History of Israel in which he defended the J-E-P-D hypothesis of authorship/ redaction of the Pentateuch.

For Schleiermacher, the basis of religion is human experience, rather than divine existence. We must have it before we can utter it. The locus of religion is in the self. The inner is key to the outer. The object of religion is the “All,” which many call “God.” And the nature of religion is found in a feeling (sense) of absolute dependence, which is described as a sense of creaturehood, an awareness that one is dependent on the All, or a sense of existential contingency.

The relation of religion to doctrine is that of a sound to its echo or experience to an expression of that experience. Religion is found in feeling, and doctrine is only a form of the feeling. Religion is the “stuff” and doctrine the structure. Doctrine is not essential to religious experience and is scarcely necessary to expressing it, since it can be expressed in symbol as well.

As to the universality of religion, Schleiermacher believed that all have a religious feeling of dependence on the All. In this sense there are no atheists. In this he foreshadowed Paul Tillich.

Being primarily a feeling, religion is best communicated by personal example. It is better caught than taught. Religion can also be communicated through symbols and doctrines. But doctrines are accounts of religious feeling. They are statements about our feeling, not about God, his attributes, or his nature. So there is an endless variety of religious expression, due largely to personality differences. The pantheistic expression results from those who delight in the obscure. Theists by propensity are those who delight in the definite.

The aim of religion is the love of the All, the World-Spirit. This is achieved through loving other human beings. The result of religion is unity of life. And its influence is manifest in morals. Religion produces a wholeness of life, but it has no specific influence on individual acts. We act with religion, not from it.

Likewise, the influence of religion on science is not direct. One cannot be scientific without piety. For the feeling of dependence on the All removes presumption to knowledge, which is ignorance. The true goal of science cannot be realized without a vision arising from religion.

No wonder fundamentalists attack the liberals for what they are left with...not much. Their attack centers on why liberals even bother with the Bible itself. Why not the Koran, especially since Hector Avalos, a Harvard trained Biblical scholar, has shown that the liberal deconstruction of the Bible has made the Bible irrelevant to modern people. He claims they have made an end to Biblical studies and they did it to themselves. I agree.

Okay so far?

For the next installment on Dr. James McGrath's reasons for being a Christian read this.