The 1984 film This is Spinal Tap, a mocumentary of Britain’s loudest heavy metal band, has a scene where the lead guitarist explains why they’re so loud—the dials on their amplifiers don’t stop at 10 but go up to 11. When the interviewer asks why they don’t just recalibrate the numbers so that 10 is the loudest, there’s a confused pause, after which Nigel repeats, “These go to 11.”
And isn’t every day Spin̈al Tap Day within Christianity? Let’s look at a few areas where Christianity stares blankly into space and then repeats, “These go to 11.”
The Catholic Church is a great source of 11-isms. To see immutable religion changing, look at the position of Jesus’s mother Mary within the Catholic Church. By 1854 it concluded, without scriptural evidence, that she must have been born of a virgin herself and in 1950 that she couldn’t have died but must have risen to heaven.
Or consider Limbo, the place that’s neither heaven nor hell, where unbaptized babies go when they die. The idea was discarded by the church in 2007.
The Trinity is always a fun topic. The Jews in the Old Testament saw the move from polytheism to monotheism as foundational, but then Christianity (Judaism 2.0) invented the Trinity. They had a have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too problem in that they wanted to keep monotheism except that their “single” deity would be formed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. First off, we have a problem with language—can’t Christianity think of a better name for its god than “God”?
And if Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the persons, what do you call the union of these into one god? That is, Father + Son + Holy Spirit = who? You need a fourth name. Do you call it “God”? But “God” is the one who created everything, and that’s supposed to be the Father. The Father can’t both be the first person of the Trinity and the overall god at the same time. You can use “the Trinity” as the umbrella name, but that’s an odd name for a monotheistic god.
There’s another way to see the problem. Consider this passage:
I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD [that is, Jehovah], and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:5-6)
There’s nothing confusing here from a Jewish viewpoint, which was the intended audience. Let’s ignore for now that the Old Testament uses several names, possibly for different gods (Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim), that are conflated when convenient.
The verse says that there is no other besides Jehovah. If Jehovah is a synonym for “the Father,” this means that he reigns alone and the Trinity is no more. But if Jehovah is a synonym for the Trinity, then it makes nonsense of the singular pronouns (Me and I) in these verses and confuses passages such as “Then [Jehovah] spoke to Moses” (Ex. 40:1) or “After [Jehovah] had spoken these things to Job” (Job 42:7). The problem, of course, is demanding a Christian interpretation of a Jewish text.
Here are a few more 11-isms.
- Why blame Adam and Eve for disobeying God when they didn’t know that that was wrong? Remember that they hadn’t yet eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
- Why does the Bible contain nutty superstitions like the one about how you can change the appearance of animals’ young by changing what they see when mating (Gen. 30:37–9)?
- Why does God give no new science, even information as simple and life saving as germ theory or the recipe for soap?
- Why was slavery in Egypt that big a deal when the Israelites promptly enslaved a tribe once they returned to Canaan (Josh. 9)?
- How can those in heaven enjoy the experience when they know of the suffering of billions in hell?
- If God deeply wants us to make it into heaven and belief in Jesus is mandatory, why is he so hidden?
- And why would he get furious because we’re imperfect when that’s precisely how he made us?
I’ve read more sensible things in Alice in Wonderland. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Sweep away [the priests’] gossamer fabrics of fictitious religion, and they would catch no more flies.”
Let’s end with an 11-ism video. This one weighs the profound love Jesus has for us against that whole hell thing.
- “Gospel Disproofs #7: Counting heads,” Alethian Worldview blog, 10/10/11.