« It's time to ditch the traditional Christian narrative: A better way for followers of Jesus to look at history | Main | The evolutionary pros and cons of promiscuity »

February 10, 2007

Comments

bls

Three questions:

It seems you're saying that the Bible is no longer to be our primary source, right?

Second question: what is our primary source, in that case?

Third: this is really a different religion, isn't it?

 D. C.

bls asks three excellent questions.

First question: "It seems you're saying that the Bible is no longer to be our primary source, right?"

My answer: Correct; I've long said that the Bible is like a set of ancient navigational charts and sailing directions — useful, but dangerous if not used with caution.

"Second question: what is our primary source, in that case?"

My answer: There is none (implied subtext: so get over it). We have to muddle through life as best we can, taking what counsel we can from the experiences of others, present and past, but always remaining responsible and accountable for our own decisions. Christians need to abandon the idolatrous fantasy that one set of writings contains all the moral answers we'll ever need for all time. (It's no accident, if you ask me, that in the procession at many Episcopal services, a priest or deacon holds a gold-encased Bible up high, reminiscent of the golden calf.)

"Third: this is really a different religion, isn't it?"

No. The religion Jesus preached was very simple: Love God, and your neighbor as yourself. If we discount (as I do) the Fourth Gospel as being a biased and unreliable polemic, as opposed to an accurate narrative, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Nicene Christianity would be unrecognizable to Jesus and the people who him during his lifetime. Does that make Nicene Christianity a different religion? I say no; it's just a weird variation on the basic themes he preached.

bls

D.C., if there is no primary source - no theory, no body of writings, nothing that anybody can agree on - then this is a faith that has no basis at all. It's simply your conjecture - and it's one that I personally find as hard to believe as you apparently find Nicene Christianity.

But the Church holds to the Nicene Creed. So the real question is, why do you want to belong to an organization whose articles of faith you find repulsive? Why don't you just find someplace where you're more comfortable? Why do you want to drive the rest of us away, who do find meaning in faith?

In any case, Jesus did preach many of these things. He preached that he would be a "ransom for many." He preached that He would be raised on the third day, and that He would return. (And he never preached, BTW, that we needed to "face facts.")

Anyway, "loving God and loving your neighbor" is found explicitly in the Pentateuch and implicitly throughout the Hebrew Bible. What does anybody need Jesus for?

D. C.

bls writes: "if there is no primary source - no theory, no body of writings, nothing that anybody can agree on - then this is a faith that has no basis at all."

The basis of all faith should be a trust (which would seem to have to be in God) that all will be well; cf. Romans. Faith based mainly on a primary source, any primary source (Bible, Qur'an, Book of Mormon) strikes me as idolatrous.

---------------

bls writes: "why do you want to belong to an organization whose articles of faith you find repulsive? Why don't you just find someplace where you're more comfortable?"

I thought we'd had this conversation before. The church is my extended family, and you don't leave your family for light and transient reasons. (Hell, I haven't even left my increasingly-conservative and -evangelical parish.) If the church were to insist on casting me out, there wouldn't be much I could do about it; but that hasn't happened yet.

------------

bls asks: "Why do you want to drive the rest of us away, who do find meaning in faith?"

I don't. But too many people who "find meaning in faith" insist that everyone else in the church has to think like they do. That's not acceptable. God is what he is, he desires what he desires, and he has wrought what he has wrought. Our job isn't to declare, "this is the way it is!" Our job is humbly to find out how things are, which includes recognizing that our conceptions of those things are often incomplete and even flat-out wrong. This goes for Nicene theology — and mine — just as much as for anything else.

------------

bls writes: "And he [Jesus] never preached, BTW, that we needed to 'face facts.'"

Explicitly, Jesus is reported in several places in the Gospels to have said, in effect, don't bury your head in the sand: pay attention to what's going on around you, and act accordingly.

Implicitly, facing the facts is a necessary incident of the Great Commandment, as I said in the main posting: If you love God with your whole mind, you acknowledge and deal with the reality that he has wrought, not with what you imagine (or wish) to be real.

--------------

bls asks: "Anyway, 'loving God and loving your neighbor' is found explicitly in the Pentateuch and implicitly throughout the Hebrew Bible. What does anybody need Jesus for?"

For the same reason we need any great teacher and preacher: To teach those who don't know, and to remind and goad those who do 'know' but haven't internalized it in their lives.

bls

I don't. But too many people who "find meaning in faith" insist that everyone else in the church has to think like they do. That's not acceptable. God is what he is, he desires what he desires, and he has wrought what he has wrought.

I think you do; that's the title of your post: "Time to ditch the traditional Christian story." IOW, those of us who find meaning in it are simpletons and fools - people unwilling to "face facts" - who'd better shape up and get with the program.

Do you really think that's reasonable? Do you really think that won't drive the rest of us out?

I don't accept the argument that "The church is my extended family, and you don't leave your family for light and transient reasons." What you're proposing is neither "light" nor "transient" - it is heavy-handed and permanent - and anyway, people do leave their families of origin to start life with a family of their own. That happens every day; it doesn't mean they don't talk to their families of origin any longer.

bls

In any case, D.C., no human being knows "the reality that [God] has wrought." Not in full, and not even in the slightest part.

So how do you propose we "face it"? Are you saying that people who don't recite the Nicene Creed know something the rest of us don't?

D. C.

bls writes: "no human being knows 'the reality that [God] has wrought.' Not in full, and not even in the slightest part."

I beg to differ with the bit about "not even in the slightest part." Clearly we know enough to get by in this life. Equally clearly, there's so much we don't know.

---------------

bls writes: "So how do you propose we 'face it'?"

By seeking, as the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor once put it, to remain open to the truth, whatever the truth turns out to be. (That's her definition of 'faith.') This includes remaining open to the empirically well-established truth that our knowledge and capabilities are limited.

---------------

bls writes: "Are you saying that people who don't recite the Nicene Creed know something the rest of us don't?"

Not really. We all know that even eyewitness testimony is not necessarily reliable. We all know that people often confuse what they imagine with what is or what was, and even with what supposedly 'must' be. We all know how tricky memories can be. We all know how stories can mutate in a flash, and how elements of different stories can "cross-fertilize" to produce something new. (The foregoing phenomena are especially noticeable when the people involved have agendas to advance, or axes to grind, or scores to settle, none of which motivations seem to have been entirely absent in the NT-era church.) We all know that what we think we know often turns out to be incomplete, and even flat-out wrong. My guess is that most people who recite the Nicene Creed know this; they just disregard it, for reasons that mystify me.

bls

Hmmm.

If "we all know that what we think we know often turns out to be incomplete, and even flat-out wrong," then why is your take on things more reliable? Shouldn't we rely on the reality that the Christian faith has been around for 2,000 years, longer than most things have existed? Wouldn't you say it has some staying power, given that fact? Since it still apparently speaks to people - it's the largest faith on earth - could it be that there's some good reason for that?

As you note often on this blog, the world has changed a great deal over the past 2,000 years - yet Christianity is still going strong. Maybe there's something to it?

bls

I meant to add: I think of Christianity as a philosophy as well as a religion. It is very easy to look at as a series of propositions: if this were true, then that would follow.

Which is I'm sure how many people have no problem at all saying the Nicene Creed.

D. C.

bls asks: "... why is your take on things more reliable?"

Two reasons: First, 'my take' coheres reasonably well with the available observational evidence from cosmology, physics, chemistry, psychology, and sociology. Second, and like unto it, 'my take' doesn't base its claims to truth on unsupported fantasies.

Don't get me wrong - if others want to believe that Jesus was God incarnate, was born of a virgin, and died a horrible death for the purpose of freeing us from the otherwise-unbreakable bond of our sin, I'm perfectly OK with that, as long as they don't rely on those fantastic beliefs as supposed justification for actions that could harm others. For all I know, they could be right. But I've got no more confidence in their overarching narrative of human history than I do in astrology.

--------------

bls asks: "... Shouldn't we rely on the reality that the Christian faith has been around for 2,000 years, longer than most things have existed? Wouldn't you say it has some staying power, given that fact? Since it still apparently speaks to people - it's the largest faith on earth - could it be that there's some good reason for that?"

Do you ever watch House, M.D.? Before we can attribute truth to Christianity on the basis of its staying power, we have to do a differential diagnosis. We see exactly the same staying power in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and of course Judaism, to name just three belief systems that are as old or older than Christianity. (And let's not leave Islam, which while younger than Christianity has exhibited some staying power of its own.) Some of the core claims of those belief systems and of Christianity are mutually exclusive. It follows that staying power isn't an indicator of truth.

------------

bls writes: "I think of Christianity as a philosophy as well as a religion. It is very easy to look at as a series of propositions: if this were true, then that would follow. Which is I'm sure how many people have no problem at all saying the Nicene Creed."

If traditionalists would let us recite the Creed in the subjunctive (?) mood — as in, "I choose to live my life as if Jesus Christ were the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God ...." — I would have far fewer qualms about it.

But the trads don't approach the Creeds that way. They insist that the rest of us must suspend our disbelief and intellectually assent to six highly-unlikely things before breakfast. If we can't do that, they claim, we are not permitted to claim the title of Christian. Utter nonsense.

bls

Two reasons: First, 'my take' coheres reasonably well with the available observational evidence from cosmology, physics, chemistry, psychology, and sociology. Second, and like unto it, 'my take' doesn't base its claims to truth on unsupported fantasies.

I don't think it does, actually. There's literally no evidence at all, from any of those sources, of a life after death. There's no evidence that we are called to be "co-creators" with God, or that the future is going to be "unimaginably wonderful." There's no evidence, for that matter, that God exists.

It's absolutely just as easy to believe that a) when we die, that's it, it's over; b) that human life is an accident - a random mutation of genes; and c) that human beings will destroy the planet (there are many possibilities for this) - or if not, that we will be smashed and destroyed by an asteroid taking a random trip through our part of the galaxy.

And yes, all those religions have indeed lasted a long time. All are based in what you would probably see as "unsupported fantasies." (Another question, BTW: how can they be "mutually contradictory" if none of them contain any truth?). It's easy to conclude that "unsupported fantasies" - of whatever type - have been - and seem still to be - somehow central to human life.

Lastly, why do you care what the "trads" think? They can't stop you from entering the subjunctive mood when you recite the Creed; lots of people do this whether they like it or not. They can't force you to say it, either. Here's hoping your choice, whatever it is, gives 'em heartburn.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz

Favorite Posts

Adv.

Episcopal Church

  • Come and Grow