Ways to Undermine Christianity

You might think that this is a post about what atheists or proponents of other religions do (or some of you might even think that this is something that I do and am sharing tips on for others).

But no, some Christians, or at least people who claim to be Christians, do at least as good a job as any opponent of Christianity could do, if not better. Here’s a survey of just a few that have come to my attention in recent days:

1) Demand that others wish you a Merry Christmas

Someone left a spam comment on my blog a week or two ago for the very viewpoint that Hemant Mehta posted about today. Apparently some Christians are not content to use their religious freedom to wish others a merry Christmas. They are demanding that store clerks, no matter their religious viewpoint, and no matter that they interact with customers of various religious traditions, wish them a merry Christmas as well.

How this undermines Christianity: On the one hand, it gives a bad impression of Christians as seeking to impose themselves on others. On the other hand, it promotes cultural Christianity and externalism rather than personal faith and commitment. The war on the war on Christmas, and the war on Santa, are at best distractions.

2) Promote the use of King James Version only

How this undermines Christianity: As Jim West notes, there is nothing that will render the Bible to obscurity and oblivion like forcing it to remain in antiquated, barely intelligible English. The early Christians were so committed to the translation of their message that we have almost nothing from Jesus in the language that he spoke, namely Aramaic. Communication has historically been important, and the KJV-only stance is in this respect not merely problematic but profoundly anti-Christian.

3) Let Barnes and Noble define what is Scripture

Joel Watts noted that a commenter named Mike Gantt defined “all Scripture” as follows: “No, by “All Scripture” I mean what they give you if you walk into Barnes and Noble and tell them you want to buy a Bible.”

How this undermines Christianity: Most conservative Christians genuinely do mean by “the Bible” whatever their particular brand of Christianity’s bookstores sell them between two covers with “Holy Bible” written on the front. Barnes and Noble in fact probably stocks Protestant, Catholic and Jewish Bibles, and maybe even The Brick Bible, thus already creating more confusion than they can handle. Any Christianity that either is unwilling to acknowledge where its Scriptures come from, or simply doesn’t know, is on a downward slope towards ignorance and the worst sorts of fundamentalism. Ignoring or dismissing the church’s role in defining Scripture leads to simplistic stances on the Bible that are not only unhelpful, but at odds with the Christian tradition, which from the early councils through the Protestant Reformation has always been aware of the need to know about these matters and participate intelligently in the discussion of them.

4) Use circular reasoning

How this undermines Christianity: It turns the Christian faith into a closed loop into which one either has to be born or otherwise never enter. Rather than a Gospel that can be preached, it offers a closed circle for people whose thinking is a closed circle. Here’s an illustration of the problem

As the saying goes, with friends (and promoters!) like these, does Christianity really need enemies? And to the extent that it has enemies, can they be any more of a threat than those working to undermine Christianity and its credibility from the inside?

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see an attack on circular reasoning. Stay strong on that!

  • Anonymous

    Circular reasoning can be useful for any authority, can’t it? Belief is dependent on an authority outside of the individual’s reason and investigation (though we are all dependent somewhat on another’s expertise)…..I think the only thing we end with are questions, many questions about the world, life and all that is……

  • Anonymous

    Amen and Amen!

  • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Joel

    amen and amen

  • Ian

    I remain concerned by the seemingly shameless publishing of ‘bibles’ promoting particular view-points or for particular purposes. Sure most of them do have a reasonable translation of the bible in there somewhere (but not all of them, by any means, there are some that excerpt or paraphrase in a highly tendentious manner), but often they are adorned and infused with interpretation and poor exegesis, in a way that takes no care to inform the reader where the bible ends and where commentary begins.

    e.g.

    http://www.amazon.com/Womens-Devotional-Bible-Zondervan-Publishing/dp/0310936136
    http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Bible-James-Version-Compact/dp/1400314593/
    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Mighty-Warrior-Devotional-Bible/dp/1400310067/

    Let’s not forget that ‘study bibles’ – the inclusion of polemic or suspect exegesis has before served to swing whole denominations into beliefs that have been ultimately rather destructive:

    http://www.amazon.com/Scofield-Classic-Thumb-Indexed-Bonded-Leather/dp/0195274741/

    • Gary

      Ian mentioned specialty bibles including,
      God’s Mighty Warrior Bible, “He created little boys to be mighty warriors.”

      Followed after the little boys grow up, by the American Patriot’s Bible, camouflage edition, for those Americans graduating to carrying guns at political party meetings.

      Followed by the Soldier’s Bible, for those that want to carry Jesus to the battlefield, for “just” wars like Iraq, and in the future, Iran. Translation, for sure, to include “Thou shall not murder”. Not “Thou shall not kill”, which would be an oxymoron.

      Followed closely by the inerrancy supporters quoting (from God or Moses, who knows? Does it matter?), Numbers 31:17-18, “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

      I see a pattern here. Enough to want to reject inerrancy.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    May I suggest a fifth?

    5) Post caricatures of opponents’ positions based on out-of-context statements

    • Anonymous

      It is a caricature, but i don’t think it’s out of context.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        I can appreciate that, but it only means you’re not sufficiently familiar with the context.

        • Anonymous

          Mike,

          Your “Barnes and Noble” analogy was a clunker regardless of what you wish to characterize as its context.  Having made my share of clunker comments, I find that the sooner I stop trying to defend them, the sooner everyone forgets about them and moves on to something else.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Fine by me.  The only topic always worth pursuing is Christ.

            • Beau Quilter

              Oh I wouldn’t go that far. Pistachio flavored gelato is worth pursuing. 

              Maybe not as much as truth. But it’s definitely worth pursuing.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                If you loved Him, you wouldn’t be so flippant.

                • beau_quilter

                  If I was being flippant, it wasn’t about Jesus, it was about your simplistic and thoughtless statements about him.

  • http://rationalrant.blogspot.com/ sbh

    “All reasoning is circular reasoning…” — R. J. Rushdoony

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662663242 Richard Williams

      some of those circles are vicious, others are virtuous

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting point about the early church preserving so few of the actual words that Jesus spoke in Aramaic.

    • Thin-ice

      Whenever you wait 50 years before writing down a conversation (gospel of Mark) and after maybe hundreds or thousands of re-tellings, and one or two languages removed from the original, what are the chances that what gets written down reflects the actual conversation? How about ZERO chance?

      I don’t understand how anyone who genuinely studies the formation of the New Testament can still believe it is inerrant and infallible. Amazing!

      • Ian

        As far as I can tell, nobody suggests that the bible just happens to be inerrant, because it just happened to be the case that those people who wrote it down managed to get it all right, by some amazing coincidence of memory and translation.

        People who think the bible is inerrant tend to think it was quite deliberately perfect, created by a being who had the power and the desire to make it so.

        Though I agree with your conclusion, your objection seems a bit of a straw man.

        • DanD

          But most of the people who make that claim also still stand by free will.  Since at least one popular bible (King James) was deliberately translated with a political bias, which would tend to indicate free will overriding innerancy, there is a bit of a conflict.

          • Ian

            That doesn’t rescue thin-ice’s straw man.

            If you just want to rehearse objections to the doctrine of inerrancy, there are plenty of good ones. I am certainly not going to defend it. One doesn’t have to concede that one’s opponent’s views are sound to engage with them as they themselves conceive them.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I’d say that being flippant has more to do with how one reacts to Jesus’ present-day self righteous, self contradictory followers, not whether or not one loves Jesus.

  • http://digestofworms.blogspot.com admiralmattbar

    I don’t think Mike has ever been dismissive or rude on this site so I don’t see any reason to be dismissive or rude to him even if you don’t like his Barnes and Noble comment.  Joel even seemed to accuse Mike of being a militant Christian…really?  What’s with all the snark and attitude here?  It makes those of us who aren’t inerrantists look bad.


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