armed with a degree in theology, over the years i have come up with specific questions to ask of christians.
indeed i even attend "alpha courses" (introductory courses to becoming a christian) and put these questions to the hosts (usually under the guise of "well i'm thinking of becoming a christian but i have some questions...)
confrontation and causing offense gets you nowhere. also being impolite just reinforces their smug assertion that atheists are angry.
the question i have had most success with at putting people on the spot goes like this...
"a priest rapes a choirboy. the choirboy becomes depressed and traumatized, rejects jesus and the church (understandably), turns to drugs, dies young and spends an eternity in hell, unsaved and condemned by god.
the priest repents on his deathbed, embraces christ, is forgiven and spends forever in heaven.
by what measure can we consider this to be justice?"
i'm hoping that this question might one day become a meme, so that anyone who brings up the subject of christianity is immediately reminded of this question and has an answer demanded of them.
i have many other questions like this that cannot be simply swatted away with theology, mystery or dogma.
i'd be happy to share them with anyone who is interested.
thanks for reading, let me know if it has an impact on anyone you ask.
Thats crazy to see you quote Thom. He and I went to the same seminary together in the same class. I dropped out though when I realized it was a pointless life pursuit. I remember when I first got there and was expressing my doubts with the inspiration of the bible and he was criticizing me for it. My how times have changed.
I find writers like him very fascinating. It is strange to read the works of Christians who are familiar with modern middle-east/biblical scholarship, not only because of the many dishonest and uneducated apologists they are contrasted against, but because for some of the more educated ex-Christians I've met (being one of them), those studies are exactly what drove them from their faiths in the first place.
Thom may call himself a christian, but it is in the loosest sense of the word. He is Christian-aligned, but is not a Christian... This is going to sound bitter, but here goes. He is an agnostic, he just is so caught up in the Emmanuel School of Religion mentality. It is one where you attend classes on why the OT is a political document used to exploit power vacuums or uses religion to consolidate power. Then later on in the day you go to a spiritual development class when you talk all about what are praying for and how you are growing in your "walk with God" and how you can "bring the lost to Christ as a pastor". It keeps you so close to Christianity, that you have a hard time taking a stand and saying "I am not a Christian" there. I have some pretty irritated memories of the intellectual dishonesty that took place in every class other than Dr. Rollstons class, which is really what Thom says his book is about is sharing the good professors work with the rest of the general public. Dr Rollston never had a good reason why he believed that there was Divine inspiration in the OT, and this drove me up the wall. He simply said it was the faith of his heritage, and so he associated himself with it. Thom has adopted a similar position, but he clearly now sees less inspiration in the bible than Rollston does. Rollston makes devastating arguments though against the accuracy of the OT, and the verbal plenary form of inspiration. I wish Thom had have more clearly laid those out, because he flows from one thought to another and leaves the reader to infer those devastating arguments, and not everyone naturally infers such things. I found Rollston to be an enigma, because he is a class act skeptic when it comes to anything relating to any discipline other than faith. It was fascinating to sit in his classes, and I loved every moment of it, but it was also a horribly traumatic time for me as I was finding out my life dream and deepest faith both had to be abandoned unless I deluded myself which was not acceptable.
Some Christian scholars of this sense refer to their faith as "mature" or "honest". While I agree that their approach to studying scripture, language and history is honest, I see this overlooking way of reconciling faith/beliefs as being exactly as you describe it. My own struggles with faith came to an end when I stopped long enough to observe and reconcile the contents of my brain from a kind of third person perspective.
Thanks for sharing your story and insights.
If you want to dig a bit deeper, NEA, BASOR and MAARAV are all great journals to see what is really going on in Archaeology.
I don't have time to explain this, because I have to go to work, but this question should not stump anyone with a degree in theology. As an ex-Christian with a theology degree, I must say that this dilemma shows a basic lack of understanding of the fundamental concepts of Western Christian salvation teaching/soteriology and substitutionary atonement in general. A lot of people just simply cannot understand the ideology because of how foreign its concepts are. I will explain later.
If you need a degree in theology (a highly dubious field of study) to understand something that should be relatively simple, and comprehensible for any believer, then that makes your religion worthless. Theology is the study of trying to make sense of nonsense.
The mere fact that after almost 2000 years, there are over ten thousand different sects and hundreds of opinions and schools of thought that are mutually exclusive, all while "studying" the same text - means that it's really just about people reading their own beliefs, preconceptions and ideas into it. And not finding some original or universal meaning
We often argue with christians about prayer. Prayer is an act of obeisance, a bowing, scraping, boot-licking act of obsequiousness. It is not mainly asking for favours, but is rather expressing one's lowly relation to the Lord or Prince. It is a giving over of one's free will. "Lord, do with me as you will." It is a shameful act of a free man.
I think the more important question relating to justice in the Bible is how is Jesus sacrifice for us justice? Theists say that if there is no heaven as atheists say and a person kills and isn't cuaght they don't get punished and seem to see this as some way to argue against an atheist as if an appeal to emotion is evidence! But then if we flip it, as you have, the priest or criminal gets off scot free just by embracing Jesus.
People say how wonderful Jesus is because he suffered for us (thats debatable, considering he was a god knowing he would resurect after 3 days) and that he has paid our price. But that's terrible justice. if I commit a crime but another, inocent person, agrees to do my jail time why I go free and enjoy life... how is that justice? Heaven and jesus' sacrifice seem like wonderful get out of jail free cards. Personally a criminal never getting caught and simply being dead and buried seems far better punishment than eternal paradise.
Though it is eternal paradise with billions of Christians so maybe it's not that great after all.as a
Ash, I think that's an important question, too. What I would like to ask someone in the clergy is something like this:
Why did God sacrifice his only begotten son in order to provide an avenue for eternal life to humanity because he loves us so much? Why did it have to be that way? There is obviously some unknowable divine operation at work here that required God to set all this in motion in order to provide his beloved creation with this awesome eternal life bonus.
Just as he created everything else, did he also create a system whose rules he couldn't bend? In other words, did he create a rock that was so heavy he couldn't lift it? He put some divine laws in place that even he couldn't break, and ended up having to make a blood sacrifice of his own son in order to get things to work out? In other words, God's fallible.
Or did he just make this whole thing up. He put it in motion and let it play out to satisfy his whims (because if you are the creator of the laws of the universe -- even the mysterious, divine ones -- they are necessarily whims. What else would you base your decisions on?)? As in, "OK, I'm really rather fond of these creatures, but they're so naughty. So, I'm going to instigate a sick, violent mess and give the whole human race a major case of Stockholm Syndrome, and send all the people who don't go crazy to burn in hell for eternity." He concocted a bloody game of Calvinball, set up all his figures on the table, and made them choose to fight -- even though he knew what was going to happen (as you point out, Ash, the sacrifice was debatable, considering that the definition of sacrifice is to give something up, and God called infinity backsies on his sacrifice). And, forevermore, if anyone questions the enormous sacrifice that required of Him, he will boil their heads. In other words, God is a psychopathic nut, by any standard.
Finally, maybe this really was the only way to provide eternal salvation for humanity. Maybe God had to do things this way -- he had no choice, and certainly would have done things differently if he could. If he could, maybe he would have just said, "Oh, I love y'all so much. I tried everything to get you to do the whole free will thing, but you're just not cut out for it -- maybe I made you wrong or something.* But I just can't stand to see you suffer. I made you; you're my responsibility, and I love you. So pack your things and let's all go home." Instead, God did this nauseating thing (and I mean just the Gospel) because his love for us made it imperative. If he is infallible and he's not a psychopath, then he must not be in charge. In other words, God is subject to rules that he cannot change, which means that there is a greater force at work, to which he is subject.
So, what is it: Is God fallible, demented, or beholden?
Is there another option? Either he did something he couldn't just undo; he did it to satisfy his own desire for blood and madness; or someone else (with a fetish for blood and madness) is in charge.
Does anyone know how a pastor would handle a crisis of faith like this?
I think how the pastor would respond would depend on whether this was actually your own personal crisis of faith that you were going through or whether it was the rant of someone entrenched in unbelief for whom no answer would ever suffice. If it were the latter i'm guessing he would point you to aristotle in order to avoid Shakespear. Aristotle said he was the wisest man in Athens as he finally knew that he knew nothing. Not many people attain that level of wisdom and so they end up in Shakespear 'full of sound and fury signifying nothing'. One of the nothings is inevitable.