I’d like to burn some very typical straw men. Hopefully, in the debate over Christianity, these unnecessary issues can be avoided.
Creation - Neither Genesis nor any of the scriptures demands that the earth and universe is only 6- to 10- thousand years old. The Hebrew word for “day” (yom) could mean long periods of time. The words “there was morning and there was evening, the first day” could be translated “there was beginning and ending, the first (yom)”.
(BTW, the narrative moves to the surface of the earth in Genesis 1:2. While stars were certainly already in existence, their light was not visible on the surface of the earth until the opaque early atmosphere cleared).
Adam and Eve – While scripture does indicate they were specially created, there are gaps in the biblical genealogies that could place Adam and Eve back 60- to 90-thousand years. This would also predict increasing discovery of a common DNA originating between east Africa and the Mesopotamia.
(BTW, the word for “rib” means “side”. The story of Eve’s creation could mean God created her from Adam for symbolic purposes. I speculate a biopsy, of sorts, from the side, with a few million variations to the DNA producing a female. )
Talking Snakes - A boa constrictor with vocal cords is not in view here. That image comes largely from medieval art. The “serpent” in the garden was intelligent and used for evil. One can only speculate what sort of being it was (perhaps one no longer extant).
The Flood – The fact that a great flood is found in various cultures indicates that it happened. Two questions emerge: which account is most accurate and whether the flood was global or local.
I’m of the opinion that the flood was regional rather than global for several reasons. First, while the flood was universal in effect, it was only regional in extent due to human’s not having moved much beyond the Mesopotamia at the time. A global flood was unnecessary.
Secondly, language like “under all the heavens”, “all the earth”, etc. are most likely from the perspective of the observer, i.e. a flood from horizon to horizon. “Mountains” could be translated “hills” with rain and water “covering” (or running over) them rather than submerging them.
Thirdly, this would mean there were not polar bears and penguins, etc. on the ark, but only animals indigenous to the region and of special relation to man.
Fourthly, a global flood would have torn the ark to pieces, no matter how well built. And it certainly would not have landed anywhere near its original location.
Fifthly, the scripture itself said a “large wind” was used in the evaporation process. Such a wind would have virtually no effect in a global flood.
Finally, if the flood were only regional why not just have Noah, his family, and whatever animals needed, hike out of the area and be safe? Why a big specifically-built ark? I think because God often operates via symbols teaching important truths or significance, i.e. salvation in Christ or deliverance through troubled waters (trials).
Use of Metaphor – The scriptures use metaphor and other literary devices. One need only utilize common exegetical analysis and context to determine what any author meant as literal or metaphorical (and on a case-by-case basis).
Inerrancy – If there are consequential or factual errors in the Bible that does not mean Christianity is false. However, I find it remarkable how well the Bible holds up to scrutiny and that there are plausible answers to discrepancies. Personally, I hold to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.
Hell – is not a place of torture (external) but of torment (internal). There are many descriptions of hell in the scriptures. The “fire” is most likely not the chemical combustion we’re familiar with. It, combined with all the other descriptions, reduces to separation from God and the judgment of God.
This does not make hell more tolerable (that’s not possible). But it does dispel hillbilly theology that has poor souls swatting flames for eternity! Christ depicted conversation taking place “in the flames”. No person could have a conversation while on fire! On our familiar planet, one is in mindless torture if burning.
It is, however, a profound tragedy to be eternally separated from God. It is a “spiritual chaos” one enters when the intact “self” survives the physical body. There are indications that some kind of body could exist in hell.
Heaven – is a remarkably physical place. It is not ethereal or immaterial. It is a combination of a “new heaven and new earth”. We will live on earth in physical bodies that are “spiritual” which nonetheless have access to one another and continued exploration of the universe without many of the limits of current bodies affected by entropy, etc. Christ’s resurrected body could be touched and he ate food, etc. This describes the redeemed, resurrected body.
This is not to be confused with an intermediary state which is not physical. At death, one goes either into the very presence of God to await the resurrection of the body, or in a state of chaos to await final judgment.
“God will not allow anything to happen in your life that you can’t handle” – False! Scripturally, there are plenty of things that happen that one cannot handle! Devastating things! The accurate teaching is that nothing will happen that God’s grace will not get one through.
“You must become like children” - Christ said to “humble yourself like a little child”. It does not mean to be naïve, ignorant, gullible, or irrational.
Pascal’s Wager – This is not an argument for God nor necessarily addressed to atheists. Pascal used a popular gambling motif to shake the French laity out of spiritual complacency and to at least move them in the direction of God.
Further, the Wager, as it is commonly used, is not allowed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He said if Christ was not risen, then the jig is up! Christianity is false! He did not say believe it anyway “just in case” or because it provides a positive way of life.
I hope these internal considerations provide food for thought.
The early church rejected Platonism but grounded otherwise Platonic objects somehow in God.
Ironically, modern science has slowly been moving toward an updated Platonism and has slowly been moving away from Aristotle. It seems the early Christians blew that one.
I don't know exactly what he's calling "the early church," but after the Alexandrian takeover of the Middle East, and the introduction to Platonic philosophies, there was a pre-Christian effort made to merge the Platonic concept of god with old blood-and-guts Yahweh.
(Source: A History of God, Karen Armstrong)
Not only that, but Platonic concepts guided Christianity from the beginning.
Consider what Paul says here about the Old Testament and ask yourself how this is not a reference to Plato's Cave
"16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Col 2:16-17
"For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near." Hebrews 10:1
There is no way to not see that Plato's cave guided the entire interpretation of the OT that allowed Christians to not follow the literal law, to allow gentiles without having them be circumcised, ect...
The Pharisees baptized and circumcised to make gentiles into jews. Christians kept baptism but made it a spiritual rather than ritual cleansing, but practiced "higher form circumcision" This is what made the whole thing possible. Without Plato the OT law is literal. And the Jews were likely influenced by Plato even before the first century, and it changed their interpretation methods long before Christianity. It wasn't just Philo of Alexandria that used platonic interpretation methods.
It seems to me that your platonic influence goes little further than the shadow terminology, because Plato's forms are not "to come" but are eternal. Beyond that, they are the only true reality. To Plato, our everyday world doesn't even exist. To Christianity, the worldm has to be real, otherwise there's no stage on which human beings can commit actual sins or can act out of righteousness. Christianity is a progression toward The End Of Days. Plato's reality, by contrast, is static.
@Unseen - would you please explain to Michael M, your definition of a "worldm"? I'm sure he'd like to know --
At least you know your critic is not without errors of his it's own!
Seems that you are misunderstanding the text. What is to come does not mean "what is to become real". Even a crude glance at Hebrews makes that pretty obvious. It makes reference to physical tabernacle being a copy of the heavenly one. (This of course predates Platonism and is found in Canaanite and other ancient near eastern religious texts and inscriptions). But the point is very clear that the true form will be revealed in a time to come. But this is why any ancient text must not be interpreted by lay people. Just because it is mass printed, doesn't mean people can understand it in a proper historical context.
I also think you misunderstand Plato, because the shadow is still something, even if compared to the reality it only is the tiniest portion of what the reality is like.
"What is to come" is inescapably a reference to the future, and Christianity is all about the future, which is something not applicable in any way to Platonism.
To Plato the everyday world doesn't even exist in the sense that it's an illusion and isn't what it appears to be. Of course it exists: it's present to the senses. To Christianity, "true reality" isn't static. To Plato, it is.
Christianity was not all about the future. It was also about a past, and eternal transcendent deity, who was unchanging, whose laws and ways were always eternal. The future was a major outlook, but not their only one. The YHWH of the future was not a different YHWH than the one of the past.
But Hebrews makes that pretty clear. That is why it says in 10:1 the law was a shadow, unable to work because it wasn't the real thing in the first place, therefore ritual sacrifices were not able to actually work. The same book also makes it clear that the OT things were copies of the heavenly reality such as:
"They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:5)
You are right, that the outlook of Platonism and Christianity differed. But the outlook to the future, doesn't conflict with their incorporation of Plato's concept of archetypes. The result is something different than the religion of Platonism. But the influence is clear, in both Christianity and 2nd temple Judiasm.
It is kind of like how Mormonism is polytheistic, yet is a derivative of Christianity
Paul quoted pagan poets (Eratus, Epimenedes) when they were in keeping with Hebraic/Christian thought, or he imbued them with such. All truth is God's truth no matter who speaks it.
Sorry, Kevin, but your "all truth is my imaginary friend's truth" constitutes nothing more than proselytizing and you had best reign it in. Trying to make a reasonable argument for the existence of your imaginary friend is one thing - trying to claim his ownership of a human construct is another entirely.
Kevin, that wasn't the point of what that was about. I felt it was important that people understand in contrast to antinomian, or dispensational positions, the the OT was seen as typological. Pointing out platonic influences helps accomplish that.
I am so very tired of the arguments about shellfish and Matthew 5:17-19. Atheists and Christians need to be using their best arguments to be fair.