Our Reasonable Faith 2

This series is by RJS (so blame me not Scot)
With this post we start our series looking at Timothy Keller’s new book The Reason for Godand using this book as a resource to grapple with the questions and issues confronting Christian belief in our educated and skeptical age. Timothy Keller was educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. For the last two decades he has ministered in Manhattan to reach an educated and largely unchurched urban population. The church he founded, Redeemer Presbyterian, currently sees an average attendance of ca. 5000 and has given rise to a dozen or so daughter congregations in the immediate metropolitan area.

In his book Keller draws on his experience to discuss seven common questions posed to deconstruct Christian belief, demonstrating that none of these need be “deal breakers.” He then spends the second half of the book reconstructing “The Reason for God” and of course, the orthodox Christian faith. In this and subsequent posts we will work through many of the issues in both deconstruction and reconstruction.
So – to begin – it is often stated that given what we know about the world today it is simply not possible to believe that there is one true religion. Religion is culturally conditioned – Moroccans are Muslim and Americans are Christian. In addition, the arrogance arising from the conviction that one has access to absolute truth is responsible for much of the evil in our world. Many believe that religion should be outlawed, condemned, or at least relegated to a purely private sphere. It is easy to show that outlawing religion is generally ineffective; condemnation of religion is only possible if one holds to some belief system – and all such systems require a “leap of faith” resulting in an inherent inconsistency; and privatization is never possible as everyone, no matter what faith or creed, brings a value system into the public discussion.
Religion is here to stay in one form or another – be it secular materialism, New Age philosophy, or orthodox Christianity.
How can we make a claim that Christianity is the one true religion and we are the people of God?

  • http://www.bible.luiscorreia.com/our-reasonable-faith-2/ Anonymous

    Our Reasonable Faith 2

    [...] jcsuperstars wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptHe then spends the second half of the book reconstructing “The Reason for God” and of course, the orthodox Christian faith. In this and subsequent posts we will work through many of the issues in both deconstruction and reconstruction. … [...]

  • Ranger

    The comment on culturally fashioned faith was a truer statement (in the west) during Colonialism, and outside of a few remaining parts of America it probably isn’t true in the West at all. For instance, would anyone dare say that an Englishman is more culturally inclined in todays society to be Christian instead of Muslim? How about the French or Spanish? Canadian? Of course not, for in England (and most of the West) Islam has as much a say in society as any faith. Would it be fair to say that in post-communist Eastern Europe and Russia are culturally conditioned toward atheism? This clearly is no longer the case. The West is very much pluralistic whether it realizes it or not, and various faiths have equal say in societal values.
    Outside of the West the original statement is more true. As someone living in China, who spent time growing up in the Middle East, I’ve experienced this reality. But it’s nowhere near as prevalent as fifty years ago or even twenty years ago.
    Living in Yemen as a youth, my friends were always somewhat confused why my family would go to church on Sundays instead of mosque. They didn’t believe the teachings of the mosque, but assumed that going to mosque was simply a part of the culture that everyone (whether Yemeni or not) had to partake in. As I talk to my Yemeni friends today, some are wild partiers, regularly drink alcohol, have been divorced, etc. Yet everyone proudly calls themselves Muslim because it’s part of their cultural and national identity. Whereas cultural Christianity is on the decline in America, cultural Islam is very much alive and well outside of the West (and maybe in the West as well).
    China today is changing so rapidly that it’s really hard to pin anything down from day to day. Even though Asian Christianity is very much vibrant and active here in China, I would say that people are still culturally conditioned towards atheism in the cities and folk religion in the villages. For instance, in the cities (where I live), Christianity is growing rapidly among the educated but individuals constantly are forced to overcome the perception of “going against the norm” which can be dangerous. It’s not abnormal to run into people who see looking into faith very much as anti-government or anti-establishment and thus are afraid to do it at all, even though there are certain forms of faith that are legal. There is a very evangelistic government church in my town which I attend at times and seems little different than most evangelical churches in America. Still, some people are afraid to be associated with it or go near it simply because they have been culturally conditioned to avoid faith completely.

  • VanSkaamper

    How can we make a claim that Christianity is the one true religion and we are the people of God?
    Making the claim isn’t difficult. Demonstrating its truth is another matter.
    The New Testament seems rather unequivocal:
    John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life ; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
    Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else ; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
    Ultimately these truth claims will stand or fall based on their coherence, and whether or not they correspond with historical events…and anyone calling themselves people of God should be manifesting Godly behavior and transformed lives if they expect to be seen as anything other than self-righteous or silly these days.
    From the fact that religious views are usually culturally conditioned it does not follow that there is more than one “truth”…it only tells us that there is an innate religious impulse in humanity that gets refracted through cultural lenses. It should motivate one to transcend their cultural influences as they search for the truth.

  • RJS

    VanSkaamper,
    You are right of course – making the claim is easy. Perhaps a better question is how to make it stick. I guess what I meant by the question is two-fold.
    Are you comfortable with the claim of Christianity as exclusive way to God – as the inclusive narrative of the world?
    And .. If so how do you defend this claim in our certainly global and perhaps “postmodern” world?

  • Rick

    RJS wrote:
    “In addition, the arrogance arising from the conviction that one has access to absolute truth is responsible for much of the evil in our world.”
    I heard Keller mention that is it actually arrogant to assume one cannot know absolute truth.
    David Wayne (Jollyblogger) mentions Keller’s take:
    “At some point in this discussion Keller brought up the famous analogy of the blind men and the elephant. This is the story where a group of blind men run into an elephant and seek to describe it. One grabs the trunk and says that an elephant is long and slender like a snake. Another grabs a leg and says he is firm and round and stout and cylindrical like a tree. The other grabs the tail and says the elephant is thin and whispy. This story is used to show that all religions are like the blind man – each has a part of the truth, but none has the whole truth. Keller quotes Leslie Newbigin on this – Newbigin says that the problem here is that the story is told from the perspective of one sees the whole elephant and knows the whole truth. In other words, the narrator of the story claims to be able to see all truth, and he claims for himself what he denies to religion.”

  • Diane

    We could say (though this argument is not without obvious dangers) that “true” religions stand the test of time and persecution.
    In periods when people have had choices, such as the first century c.e., people have tended to choose monotheisim or so I understand from what I have read, not being a scholar of religion.
    Though it’s popular to say that Western missionaries “wiped out” indigenous religions, and while certainly terrible misdeeds were perpetrated against indigenous faiths, a solid religion nevertheless will withstand severe persecution. It has proven thus far impossible to wipe out Judaism or Christianity, despite repeated and extreme attempts to do so. Does this make Christianity the only path? No, we have to look deeper, but that will be another post!

  • http://hopefulheretic.typepad.com Ron

    It seems more accurate to say that “we believe Christianity is the one true religion and we are people of God.” Making a claim is like throwing down a gauntlet. It is a challenge and invites argument and counter-argument. Expressing a belief is epistemologically more honest.

  • http://microclesia.com John La Grou

    Christianity is but a concept of God, not God. To hold any religious belief in exclusivity says more about human hubris than the truth claim itself. Jesus is Perfection, not me nor my beliefs about Jesus.
    RJS, in your last post, a comment was made which well summarizes the problem with religion. One person matter-of-factly tells another “…you are probably not a Christian.”
    This is what religion breeds – a perverse “us against them” mentality – a spirit of separation and disunity that rides shotgun over love, peace, humility, goodness, justice, honor, purity, and excellence.
    The Jesus model of NT faith reflects an undying desire for universal embrace, not divisive triumphalism. Ironically, exclusive truth can never be acquired, only given away.

  • http://societyvs.wordpress.com/ societyvs

    “How can we make a claim that Christianity is the one true religion and we are the people of God?” “Are you comfortable with the claim of Christianity as exclusive way to God – as the inclusive narrative of the world?” (Scot)
    The inclusive aspects I really like – it’s the exclusive claims that bother me to no end (usually resulting in theologies of superiority of some sort).
    I think the key is the teachings we have recieved and allowing them to be the values and cornerstones we hold to. Now if someone were to perchance be following these same teachings without real inside knowledge on the scriptures – are they damned? Or in other religions – if they love God and their neighbor – are they also not fulfilling the 2 commandments Jesus clearly names the ‘greatest’? What if someone accepts the teachings of the faith but has nothing to do with the church?
    I am not an exclusivist because it’s flawed logic when tested and when studied. It also produces in the believer an ‘air of superiority’ – this ‘inside group’ mentality so to speak – which gets into breaking a teaching of Christ himself ‘treat others how you want to be treated’ (does our faith allow us to truly be that seperate from others – in belief and reality?).
    I read the teachings and life of Jesus as very inviting – and not forceful. Jesus wins converts in a manner we need to pattern if we want to invite people in – he offers them ‘salvation’ (something tangible to him). Blind man – see’s; deaf man – hears; leper – healed, etc. Jesus was offering something to the hearers – and it was hope realized.
    For me, the faith is about allowing people to join in the community of God – by virtue of what they have experienced from the fellow believers there. If the believers offer tangible hope (ie: help the person in need) – I can’t see why the helped wuldn’t want to be there? If the believers offer ‘piecemeal words’ – some will come – but many will not waste their time – they don’t see anything in it.
    I don’t think we can afford to be exclusivist until we actually have something to be exclusive about…and at this point…I don’t see it.

  • Scott M

    I’m not sure it’s helpful to spend time making claims about Christianity versus other religions — at least not in a general sense. We do proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth is the crucified and risen Messiah and is thus the world’s true Lord. That message is as crazy now as it has ever been, but if it is true then that will work itself out.
    Similarly, I don’t know that it is useful or helpful to tell others that we are the people of God. I think it’s better to focus on how to live as the people of God. We will be seen to be a people or we will not more strongly than any argument we could make. And it is, in this context, important to be the people of the same God. I think we’re losing sight of that.
    The God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth and the true human being also revealed in him are, in fact, different than what we get from other religions. Christianity says something different about the nature of reality and what it means to be a human being. But that perspective only has weight as you begin to make it your own. Otherwise it looks foolish (and sometimes amazing).
    I suppose if we actually lived as the people of a unique God acting out together what we believe it means to be a human being, we wouldn’t have a need to be making or supporting these sorts of claims. Our lives together and in our communities would make them for us.

  • VanSkaamper

    RJS:Are you comfortable with the claim of Christianity as exclusive way to God – as the inclusive narrative of the world?
    Yes…because I think Jesus and the New Testament writers are comfortable with it. That said, I don’t necessarily think that a person has to have heard of Jesus (or John Piper) in order to come to the Father. I think Jesus is the only way.
    And .. If so how do you defend this claim in our certainly global and perhaps “postmodern” world?
    I think the Gospel message and the Holy Spirit transcend culture. I also think that much (not all) of postmodernism is a degenerative fashion, fad, and epistemic travesty, well intentioned as many of its enthusiasts are.
    I think if we can get over the caricature of modernism and the unattainable quest for certainty, and instead adopt a more honest and epistemically responsible form of foundationalism, then we can engage the world and argue the plausibility of the Christian view. That, combined with transformed lives and communities is what, I believe, the Scripture asks us to do. The Spirit does the rest.
    #10: I’m not sure it’s helpful to spend time making claims about Christianity versus other religions — at least not in a general sense.
    Didn’t the apostles do this? If so, then why shouldn’t we?
    Similarly, I don’t know that it is useful or helpful to tell others that we are the people of God.
    Couldn’t agree more with Scott here…if you have to tell people you’re the people of God, then you’re probably not…
    It’s a great question, RJS…too bad I’m traveling all day.

  • Scott M

    Actually, the apostles didn’t make claims about Christianity. They made specific claims or proclamations about Jesus of Nazareth. The rest worked itself out. I would suggest we do the same.

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    I think one of the problems in ‘truth’ discussions is the tendency to think in all-or-nothing terms–either something (a religion, a worldview, a scientific theory, a theology, a cultural mindset, a pastor’s teachings, etc.) is ‘true’, or it is ‘false’. But when we’re looking for or talking about what’s true (about God, about people, about the world, etc.), it seems more helpful and more accurate to think on a continuum, and to recognize that none of us has so much of the truth that we no longer need to learn.
    For my part, if someone wants the truth about God, I don’t have any hesitations recommending Jesus as the best place to go. He’s on the good end of the continuum of truth, in my opinion, all by himself. This is an extremely important conclusion for someone with limited lifespan and attention. I haven’t read much of the Koran, for example, because I have limited time, and have much more confidence in Jesus than Muhammad. But neither will I deny that there is much that can be (accurately) learned about God from nature or from from one’s friend or mother–even if such person is a Buddhist, for example–just as there are many untruths about God or others one can pick up from Christian churches, individuals and media, as we’re all somewhere on that continuum, believing and living and spreading both truth and falsehood in varying degrees and kinds.
    But, having had my own various crises of faith, I don’t think I would be a student of Jesus if I wasn’t, right now, convinced that Jesus is the best option available to me for trustworthy knowledge and everything else good and necessary. We’ve all got to prioritize things because of our natural limitations, and I’m going to prioritize Jesus, and even recommend him to others as appropriate. That’s what makes me his disciple as opposed to someone else’s.

  • VanSkaamper

    Actually, the apostles didn’t make claims about Christianity. They made specific claims or proclamations about Jesus of Nazareth.
    They presented the Gospel of Christ, and argued that people should repent and follow Him. To me that’s Christianity, but if you want to distinguish between Jesus and the institutional church as such, then I’d certainly agree.
    #13:He’s on the good end of the continuum of truth, in my opinion, all by himself.
    If we’re going to offer Jesus and his Gospel to the world as truth, then we’re comparing and contrasting Jesus to other isms. Either we think this is objectively true, or we don’t. If we do, then that means we are using (whether consciously or not) criteria that transcend worldviews in making that judgment. If we don’t believe that Jesus is objectively further down the TRUE end of the truth continuum, then we’re not offering reason for the hope that lies within us, and we’re not giving a Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist a reason to believe.
    As I read the NT, I see the apostles presenting Jesus and his Gospel as the way, and confronting other religions head-on, comparing and contrasting Jesus with idols, gods, agnosticism, or whatever.
    The Biblical model seems to a combination of presenting a reasonable case for belief in Jesus, and trusting the Spirit to do the work of reaching people’s hearts.

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    I think there’s some ‘truth’ in Scott M’s comment (#13). In that vein, it’s good talk about how we can support or defend our claims about Christ. One way, of course, is to love the way he did and taught–give ourselves in agape love for others, trusting God’s provision and our ultimate resurrection.
    Secondly, as a person who’s seen at least a couple of miracles and had them communicate strongly to me about these matters, we can support or defend our claims about Jesus being the true (and highest) Lord of the world by practicing the miraculous in his name. Despite how this offends our modern mindset, it has substantial biblical, historical and even current global precedent; and it makes perfect logical sense. The 12, in their plural and pre-modern world, asked for boldness to proclaim Jesus, and for signs from God to confirm that Jesus is who they claimed. It’s amazing what a healing will do in terms of how much the recipient (and/or their family) will trust Jesus versus other alternatives. I know we’d prefer another ‘way’ to support Christ’s superiority than sacrificial love and miracles, but who are we talking about here, anyway? :)

  • Diane

    As others have said, and I resonate with T’s comments, Jesus is not the way, the truth and the life because we say the words and then kill the people who won’t say the words (or tell them they’re going to hell) but because the life Jesus modeled is the way of living that will get us back in relationship with God. We have to live as he lived if we are going to reclaim the garden. That doesn’t necessarily mean wandering and preaching but it does mean giving up violence as a means to power, loving people by helping them and standing against religious hypocrisy for starters. Only small segments of Christianity in any given period practice this.

  • VanSkaamper

    15:I know we’d prefer another ‘way’ to support Christ’s superiority than sacrificial love and miracles, but who are we talking about here, anyway?
    I think I’d prefer anything that works…and miracles certainly have their place…if you can pull them off on demand (I cannot).
    But we’re called to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. Appealing to the significance of the miracle of the resurrection would be part of that…but when I look at the model of Paul at Mars Hill and the other apostles, it seems to me there’s much more than doing miracles or appeals to miracles in their message.
    Jesus didn’t see miracles as a panacea either:
    John 6:26: Jesus answered them and said , “Truly , truly , I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs , but because you ate of the loaves and were filled

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    VanSkaamper,
    I can’t tell if you’re taking issue with something that I said re: ‘objective’ truth, but I can tell you that I’m confident that things are whatever they are, regardless of anyone’s perspective on them, even while I appreciate the limitations of everyone’s perspective. And I am a fan of comparing Jesus to other alternative people, things or ‘isms’ which we could trust and follow. This strikes me as a naturally human, and even longstanding Jewish, thing to do.
    It also strikes me as obviously problematic, even somewhat dishonest, when people say ‘all religions are the same’. We might as well say all people are the same. Was Buddha the same person as Jesus or either the same as Muhammad? Did they do the same things, recommend all the same things (though there is bound to be some overlap)? Would marrying one person be different from marrying another? Trusting and following Buddha or Scot McKnight or Donald Trump or whomever is not the same thing as trusting and following Jesus, as any of those people who are living would readily admit. Different people, different abilities, statements, priorities, etc.

  • http://www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org Matthew

    I really do not have to deal with this much in my ministry, small town Southern culture, but I will check out this book, as the world seems to be turning to this more. Even Wright in all the controversy around him, stated that Muslims are included in the gospel. He received cheers.
    http://www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org

  • VanSkaamper

    T: I’m sticking to the original question regarding how we can make a claim that Christianity is the “one true religion,” and I’m saying that in order to do that, we need a well-rounded strategy to build a cumulative case for the reality of Christian message. It would include the miraculous, it would include transformed lives and communities, and it should also include rational argumentation to demonstrate that following Jesus doesn’t entail a denial of reality.

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    My point re: miracles is not that we ought to be able to perform them ‘on demand’; not even Paul did that, or he wouldn’t have bothered telling Timothy to take a little wine with his food. My point is that it would be a biblical and even global oversight not to bring them up in response to RJS’ question. We don’t have to have either miracles or reasons. In fact, miracles are a few of the reasons that I personally trust that Jesus is indeed a living, powerful and good Lord. And, yes, Jesus didn’t think miracles were any silver bullet, but that verse, if intended to support the idea that we, as Christ’s ambassadors, ought not practice or even be ambivalent about the miraculous, needs to be placed in a larger NT and global church historical context in which there is overwhelming positive use of the miraculous to deal with exactly the issues raised in this post. The “how” is a good topic given all the confusion and ignorance on the topic, but not the one of this thread.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    I like Pannenberg’s answer to this question–the “truth” of a God is demonstrated in history.
    In the OT, gods competed for legitimacy. Baal claimed to be the god of one nation, El another, Yahweh another. Each of these gods claimed to have the power to do certain things and their worshippers put them in competition (i.e. Elijah and the prophets of Baal). As a god demonstrated its power to do in history what that god’s religious system claimed it could do, the “truth” of that god’s existence was validated. Thus, when Moses’ staff turned to a snake in front of Pharaoh, Yahweh was partially validated. When the Egyptian magicians repeated the same miracle, their gods were partially validated. When Moses’ snake ate the magicians’ snakes, Yahweh was shown to be superior. Further, when a god fails to do what its religion claims it can do, that god is invalidated. Thus, when Babylon was conquered, Marduk was invalidated as a god.
    As it relates to Yahweh, the “truth” of His existence is validated as He acts in history. Ultimately, only the fulfillment of His eschatological promises will fully validate His existence. Until then, we can’t know for sure that God exists, but He is partially proven “true” as His claims are validated in history. (To the extent that the Christian religion’s claims cohere to reality, the truth of “God” is validated.) Thus the resurrection of Jesus was the preview of Yahweh’s validation as lord over Creation.

  • Duane

    Listening to Keller one gets the impression that he would answer the question simply that Christianity is not a religion and it should not be considered as one of many. “Religion” is too equivocal a term and the argument is off track from the beginning. Maybe we need a new and univocal term. What would it be? Worldview? Maybe “The Way” is so unique it cannot be compared to the great world religions. Maybe that is our problem–allowing it to be considered one among many. Maybe we need a “new way of thinking,” (and, does that not sound a lot like the meaning of repentance?)? Think about it!

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    Duane #23,
    The problem with that view is that it limits talk of God’s existence to in-house discussions. Shouldn’t the task of apologetics and/or theology be to demonstrate the “truth” of God to those who are not already convinced? To do that, you have to start with an even playing field.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    “How can we make a claim that Christianity is the one true religion and we are the people of God?”
    I think that Christianity has created a paradox when there is no need for paradox. This happened when people redefined faith as a type of certainty about the accuracy of our own stories instead of allegiance to the path. Somewhere along the line, faith became about a competition for the best or “most true” story.
    Pluralism has nothing to do with seeing multiple paths. It is about understanding that different cultures describe the same one true path through different symbolic language and myths. For example, Jesus says you must be born again and he tells a variety of myths (parables) that disclose that path. Paul says you must die to self. Buddha says you must obtain “no self” (anatta, enlightenment). These are different symbolic references to the single path of transformation from self-centered to selfless people and communities. If that truth is “true” then it is true no matter what metaphor is used.
    Reason based faith is not really a paradox. No where does faith have to mean accepting as fact things which have no factual basis. Sometimes we act as if the harder our story is to believe the more points we get if we can make ourselves believe it. Is that healthy or even biblical?
    Do we really need to win the battle for most accurate myth? Why can’t we be happy retelling our stories and finding God’s glory in the effectiveness of the story’s ability to change lives? In my experience, Jesus has been the way. The proof is in the fact that his story changed my life (and probably yours too). That doesn’t negate another story.

  • Jimmie

    In reading what Matt said in #22, that the gods of the OT competed for legetimacy…
    I don’t think that it was the gods who were competing, I think that it was the followers of the different “gods” making the claim that “my god is better than your god” – which is to say “my understanding of who God is better than yours” – which is to say “I’m right and you are wrong”.
    I think that these “us vs them” statements are arrogant and have done absolutely nothing to encourage someone to experience the love of God in Jesus Christ.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    Jimmie #26,
    I appreciate your comment, and I agree that we need to be careful about the way that we come across in theological dialogue. The “I am right and you are wrong” language does more harm than good.
    At the same time, we cannot avoid the reality that the religions offer competing claims that are often mutually exclusive. Islam says “There is no God but Allah” and Hinduism says that there are thousands of gods. (Or, Yahweh claims to be the only God. Perhaps that is arrogant of Him, but I guess that is His perogative.)
    Further, it is not just the “religion” making the claims, but in essence, the gods themselves. For, how else does a god reveal himself or herself except by his or her religion?
    What I like about Pannenberg’s solution is that he forces people to “critique” religious claims by their own rules. “Progressive Faith” in #25 does the opposite, judging the claims of the religions by western, modernist rules, and effectively invalidating every world religion by a set of rules he has created.
    I think your concern is a legitimate one. We need to be aware that we have no authority over others, and people will only be “convinced” when religious claims “work” in their system. There is no point in trying to browbeat people into the kingdom.
    I think there is a difference between Yahweh’s claim to be the only God and my claim that Yahweh is the only God. Yahweh can maker His claim absolutely, while I must make my claim with humility. Only time will tell if Yahweh’s claim to be the only God plays itself out.

  • Jimmie

    Thanks Matt.
    I’m not sure if Hinduism’s view of there being “thousands” of gods can’t be viewed in the same way that we say “Yahweh is the only God” and He has revealed Himself to us in many ways – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to name three – but Paul says that God has revealed himself in all creation. So, I can try to look at the Hindu and try to see where his “thousands” of gods are merely thousands of different revelations of “Yahweh”, being expressed in the culture that that he is living in.
    But that wasn’t my main point – which was that Christianity is best expressed through the Love of Christ, and there is no place in this Love for anything that might be viewed as arrogance or feelings of intellectual, moral, or spiritual superiority over another human being who, like us, was created in the image of God.
    Thanks, Jimmie

  • http://www.poetryistheology.blogspot.com J. Ted Voigt

    great conversation! I’m a long-time reader, first-time commenter here…
    mind if I throw an analogy into the mix? I’d be interested to see what other people think-
    We seem to be doing some comparing of different religions here, so lets say all religions are cars. People use them, try out different ones, tend to prefer their own make over other makes, things like that. Now let’s say that Christians claim their car is the only airplane in the parking lot. That Christianity, and no other car, can actually leave the ground and fly. That Christianity, being the only true religion, can actually get you to “heaven” (or some other ultimate reality)
    If we are to question that assumption, we have to ask one of the two questions: either “Are all the cars really airplanes” or “are any of the cars really airplanes?” -i.e. is every religion a means of ultimate transformation, or are none of them actually effective in this?

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John Frye

    Will the real “god” stand up! I think YHWH did that in the Exodus by humiliating the “gods” of Egypt and liberating the slave nation of Israel. YHWH out of deep love married Israel and wanted a nation of lovers so that YHWH’s compelling excellence among all the other gods could be compared. Irael went awhoring after other gods, breaking YHWH’s heart. To win the world YHWH sends the best–the Son–the Messiah. Once again, YHWH in Jesus offers a compelling life of love to be compared with any other “god” offered. “The people of God” say that they are heart-struck in love with Jesus who reveals Israel’s God the best. This is how the world will know we are YHWH’s—by our love for one another and for the needy of the world. God has never been ashamed to be in the line-up with other “gods.” Faith in Christ working through love is the apologetic of the real “God.”

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    It seems to me there are two different questions that need to be answered.
    1. Is it inherently unreasonable to claim only one religion can be correct?
    2. Is Christianity correct in claiming to be the one?
    1. In many ways this question astounds me. Imagine someone claiming proponents of quantum mechanics were bigotted because they exclude other systems. What if we insisted that those who want to use leeches medically be treated as if they were also correct (or at least no more incorrect).
    When we insist that no one religion can be correct, we do so not because of any evidence that this is the case but because we don’t like the idea of nice people on the other side of the world (or across the street) suffering the consequences of being wrong. We also don’t like people accusing us of being wrong.
    But if Christian theology is correct about the Fall, then the human race has a fundamental problem. God does not owe us a blasted thing, but it seems He decided to provide us a fix. Would it not be reasonable for Him to insist that we actually use the fix provided?
    Imagine if someone with diabetes was told that the proper medicine was insulin, but injecting yourself with saline, adrenaline, bleach, or sugar water would be just as affective.
    It is not illogical to suggest that only one religion might be true.
    2. So which religion? There is only one that is even remotely verifiable. It rests on the historicity of one impossible event. If that event occurred, then Christ’s claims of exclusivity are supported. If what He taught was true, most other religions can be shown to be excluded fairly easily. A couple of others would require a little more time. Only Christianity stands up.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    John Frye,
    Excellent way of putting it! I might say that YHWH’s primary way of validating Himself as the true God is through the Holy Spirit’s work in the New Covenant community. The Holy Spirit functions as the “downpayment” of the kingdom that is to come (when YHWH is vindicated as God and Creator).
    What is the primary way in which the Spirit is at work in the New Covenant community? Love.
    Love is the new apologetic. (Makes me think of Alyosha and Ivan Karamazov.)

  • nathan

    I think Ray Comfort has got this question answered.
    Just.
    Kidding.

  • Jimmie

    ChrisB #31, Let’s put a twist on your diabetes cure analogy. Let’s say that we were talking about cancer instead of diabetes. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, sometimes in combination with one another, are all proven cures for cancer.
    Is it illogical to suggest that more than one religion might be true?

  • mariam

    I have struggled with this question in trying to “fit” in with orthodox Christianity. My own church is liberal, and so am I, but I nevertheless try to come to some sort of accommodation with what are generally regarding as central Christian tenets. Sometimes I really have to stretch to get there. I can affirm the creeds, but if you asked me what exactly I had in mind or to define the creeds, my view probably wouldn’t be exactly the same as most people here. My personal “opinion” is that there are paths in many faithswhich lead us to Christ and paths in each religion, including Christianity, which don’t. In fact, the best “Christian” I know is a Muslim, if fruits of the spirit, a belief in God and a reverence for Christ are defining attributes. If someone tries to love God and love their neighbour as themselves I find it hard to believe that God would eternally damn them for not using the correct name. I can easily affirm that Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” for me. I believe that he is the best way, the complete truth and true life, but is “Christianity” the only way? I have a hard time with that one. What I can accept is that Christ is the gate by which we enter the Kingdom. Will He turn away those who have never heard or understood His message? Will He turn away those, who in their hearts, believed they were following “the way”? Would He die for all and then open the gate only to the few that had previously signed a confession of very specific beliefs? When I observe the Christ portrayed in the New Testament, I have a very hard time believing that and I have a hard time believing that we would want to minimize His atonement in such a way.

  • http://microclesia.com John

    Well said, Miriam. The vast majority of souls since AD33 have come and gone never having heard the J/X story. Your apologetic is beautiful and presents a realistic NT reading, though I’m still wrestling with the Muslim example..

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Amen, John (#30) and great thread and posting.

  • Brad Cooper

    Ron (#7),
    You said:
    It seems more accurate to say that “we believe Christianity is the one true religion and we are people of God.” Making a claim is like throwing down a gauntlet. It is a challenge and invites argument and counter-argument. Expressing a belief is epistemologically more honest.
    (end quote from #7)
    ………
    Why is it epistemologically more honest to say we believe than that we know? What is the foundation for this statement? The Bible claims that you can “know the certainty of what you have been taught” concerning the Gospel (Luke 1:4). If we have certainty, then it is honest to make a claim.
    If we do not have certainty, I seriously question that it is epistemologically honest to say that we believe in the Biblical sense. It seems rather foolish to me to commit your whole life to a belief for which you have no certainty.
    Jesus made claims. The apostles made claims. The New Testament writers made claims. They certainly did invite arguments and counter-arguments….so heated that they provoked others not only to argue with them but to persecute them, run them off, beat them, imprison them, and even kill them.
    Do we really avoid making claims because it is epistemologically honest or because we’d rather avoid the tension……or even persecution?
    Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    societyvs (#9),
    So having an inclusivistic attitude is superior to having an exclusivistic attitude? Right?
    I invite you to chew on that.
    By the way, Jesus did more than offer people encouragement and hope. He actually spent a great deal of time correcting people’s misconceptions about God–making exclusivist claims that they were wrong and that he was right.
    A few years ago, as I was making my way through the Gospel of Luke, I noted that Jesus was in conflict with (rebuking and correcting) someone (his disciples, Jewish leaders, etc.) in almost every situation that Luke records. Check
    it out for yourself. He made the Jewish leaders so mad that they were constantly plotting against him and finally had him crucified.
    Luke records a similar pattern for the apostles and early church leaders in the book of Acts. And extrabiblical early church history records that their exclusive claims and the resulting conflict got all of the apostles killed (except John, who was exiled).
    Inclusivism is very popular today. But we must ask as Paul did: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, NIV)….He asks this rhetorical question right after making some very exclusive claims in verses 6 to 9.
    Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive Faith (#25),
    You said:
    “Pluralism has nothing to do with seeing multiple paths. It is about understanding that different cultures describe the same one true path through different symbolic language and myths.”
    ………
    What is your basis for this claim? What makes you think that different cultures describe the same one true path. This is a very nice and reassuring popular feel-good thought, but why should anyone believe it? Just because a lot of people have said it. Why should I believe this remarkable claim rather than the claims of Scripture?
    Of course, the real problem is that it is contrary to the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible. Jesus said there are two paths (not one). He said there is the very “narrow” exclusive path that leads to life that few people find. And he said that the other path is wide and leads to destruction and lots of people take that one. (See Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:23-25.)
    If all cultures are leading down the same path, then what was the point of the apostles suffering and dying for their message about Jesus? Why did Jesus want them to expend so much energy taking the message to the ends of the earth? (Acts 1:8) Why not just leave them all alone going down their own path…if it’s all the same? Why does Peter call one of these alternate paths “the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers”? (1 Peter 1:18) Why is the cross foolishness and Jesus a stumbling stone? (1 Corinthians 2, etc.)………..
    I invite you to think hard about this and not simply take a comfortable posture on this issue. Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    Mariam (#35),
    Thanks for sharing your very honest struggle. You’ve struck at the heart of this very difficult issue.
    I must preach an exclusivist gospel, because that is the only one the Bible authorizes me to preach…..but I do not have answers for all of the very good questions that you raise.
    I only know that God is just and I will leave the final judgement in his hands. I am not worried about these questions, because I trust him. He will deal with each person justly at the final judgement.
    BTW, it has been quite a while since I’ve blogged here. Hope all is going well with you. Peace.

  • Bob

    Thanks all for the good comments and conversation,
    What I find lacking in my experience of communities that communicate “all ways lead to God” is they are filled with angry ex-conservatives and older people nerver any kids running around. I think there has to be some content to the faith to pass to children. It seems like the conservative (mega) churches are full of kids-a sign of life. Seems like most people in the West are attracted to a faith that has content. These are not water tight arguments. How does a Life Force that underlies all religions deal with suffering, evil and power to overcome sin? God is love but is love god? I want my kids to start off conservative then deconstuct as they mature.
    Blessings

  • Jimmie

    Maybe the better question is “should” we make the claim that Christianity is the one true religion (as opposed to “can” we make the claim…).
    What is purpose of making such a claim? To make disciples of Jesus? If so, making such a claim is probably the most most ineffective method of doing so. It may have been a great method in AD 33, but in the today’s culture, people are more easily convinced by hearing of another person’s experience, and how God has worked in their life…and by seeing Jesus work in the life of that person.
    I am involved in a group that makes this claim: that we are a program of “attraction rather promotion”, and that we attract by sharing “our experience, strength and hope”.
    I believe that this is the better way to make disciples for Jesus.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    The real reason this issue is dicey (and if I have missed someone else’s thoughts, forgive me – I’ve just read through the posts so far and don’t see it) is that “the truth claim” is tied usually to some kind of soteriological claim: who is saved?
    This is where the logic will eventually and necessarily break down (questions of an all knowing/loving God not making Christianity available enough to all, where are the people in history pre-Christ who never knew the Judeo-Christian story/God, should we really expect that someone raised with an utterly different religious system and worldview be able and willing to ask the question: what is the truth? and God I don’t know – please find me, etc.).
    The truth claim is rarely a philosophical arm chair discussion. It leads to actions. If Christianity is the superior truth to all other truths, then these thorny issues must be accounted for in a way that allows people to still respect God and the faith at the end of the day. That’s hard to do with heaven and hell are on the line.
    If we take heaven and hell out of it, then the claim of superiority isn’t as critical anyway. It becomes a personal conviction experienced at the level of heart and insight, not as a tool to coerce compliance from others. At that point, a humble “Christianity is the truth as far as I know it” seems a better posture than “It is the truth for me AND you and I’ll prove it to you.”

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Jimmie, I love how you are framing the discussion. Wonderful insight:
    I am involved in a group that makes this claim: that we are a program of “attraction rather promotion”, and that we attract by sharing “our experience, strength and hope”.
    I have a follow up question: If Christianity is “the single most truth,” does this shut off the possibility of learning from other religious traditions?

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    Great thread of comments.
    One issue that arose in Brad’s comment and elsewhere is the difference and/or relationship between biblical “belief” and certainty. It seems that biblical “belief” or “trust” isn’t so much a matter of what one is certain of (demons, for example, are likely certain that Jesus is Lord, and they shudder at the thought), but what one is going to “bet on” through their actions. Of course, being certain of something makes betting on it much easier (less stressful) to do, and I’m all for developing a level of trust that is “certain” about a variety of things about God. But the central biblical question of “belief” seems to focus not so much on what one is certain about, but rather, given our seemingly endless choices of what and whom we can bet our lives on day by day and the necessity that we actually place our bets and live in a definite way, who or what are we going to trust enough to act upon?
    This seems, at any rate, what Jesus thought calling him “Lord” was about, and what loving him was actually about. He said we had to love him more than any others to be his disciple. This seems, if you think about it, implicit to what a disciple is. If you love or trust someone else more, you will be guided by them. The issue is do we trust or love someone or something else more? The answer is in what we actually do.
    At any rate, I thought the NT tendency of defining trust as inherently comparative was relevant to the question posed. We’ve got one life to live; who are we going to trust enough to follow? Are we, in practice, polytheists, who trust Jesus for some things and other “gods” with other matters? Do we make sacrifices to each to keep them all happy?

  • Melissa

    Thank you for the heads up on this book. The latest book I have read is a religious journey book of thoughts and words from God written with the author’s own deep insight into the Scriptures called Trail Thoughts: A Daily Companion for the Journey of Faith.

  • Bob

    Julie says: If Christianity is “the single most truth,” does this shut off the possibility of learning from other religious traditions?
    Yes to both parts. I don’t know if that is a logical fallacy or a paradox that we all have to live with? I guess we can have a Proper Confidence and be chasitned by other thoughts and religions. ScottM or RJS with their minds could clear all this up.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    I loved Paul’s approach in Athens:
    “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I noticed an altar with this inscription, ‘to an unknown god.’ Therefor what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” Acts 17:22-23
    I think we need to recognize that for the most part religion has at its core a longing to know and be in contact with the divine (ie God). And because God’s fingerprints are all over creation, because we carry within us both a sinful nature AND the very image of God, people seeking the divine will find pieces of God. Paul recognized that the Athenians had found a bit of Truth in their quest for the divine: that there is a God, unknown to them whose ways and teachings they did not know.
    In my experience one of the most effective way to talk with people of differing faiths is to demonstrate that many of those things which they view as unique, perhaps even exotic, parts of their faiths, are found in Christianity. For example, the Buhddist practice of non-attachment is oddly similar to what I have found in Jesus’ instruction that the one who loses his life will gain it. I can show respect for the teachings of other religions which people find value in without giving up Christianity’s place as the most complete and accurate revelation of God we have. Then it does become a matter of debate over the virtues of the faiths. I can start with the commonality of non-attachment and argue that the Christian conception is more respectful to the reality of human existence.
    So I guess what I am saying is that I think it is possible to hold to Christianity as the one True religion without being disrespectful of other faiths. I do think that the teaching of “born-again” theology has made this very, very difficult (and for the record, I think it is utterly false to paint this as what is taught in scriptures rather than an interpretation of what is taught in scriptures). But if we can take God and the faith out of the box we have created for ourselves, I think we will find that we can bring the good news rather than the bad news (you and your people are going to HELL) in a way that is respectful of and resonates with those of other faiths.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    Jimmie said: Is it illogical to suggest that more than one religion might be true?
    Yes. They can all be false, but they can’t all be true — because they claim contradictory things. Is God personal or impersonal? If the former, you’ve just wiped out the far eastern religions. Is Jesus God? If so, you’re down to Christianity.
    Could all have a nugget of truth in them? Yes, but according to Jesus, that’s not enough.
    Remember that claims for Christian exclusivity are based first and foremost on the words of Christ as recorded in the Gospels. He said a person’s eternal destiny was dependent on that person’s relationship with Christ and nothing else.
    Someone else asked whether it is important that we say that only Christianity is true. I think it is; if the above is correct, then letting people believe that being a good Muslim or Buddhist is good enough will ruin them.
    I don’t like the idea of my Muslim, etc friends going to hell, but the Bible doesn’t give me another option. As unfair some think it is, Romans tells us that everyone has the information they need to make their decision.

  • Jimmie

    A wise friend once told be that if my primary concern was whether or not I had my ticket punched properly so I would go to heaven, that I was probably on shakey ground anyway.
    To me, it’s not an issue of whether or not I “go to heaven or hell”, but rather an issue of does my religion enhance my personal relationship with God.
    The issue of heaven and hell is much to big for me to understand, and I’ll have to let God handle that. To say that my religion is “true” because its believers go to heaven and the other religions are false because their believers go to hell…well I just can’t say that, sorry.
    I believe that religous is truth is proven when it enables that particular believer to experience the love of God, and to live in the presence of God.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    ChrisB, many people read the same bible and come to different conclusions about salvation. It is fine to say that your understanding is the one you feel is best supported by scripture, but to say that the bible just doesn’t give you room to believe anything else just isn’t true.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com Matt Edwards

    I like J. Ted Voigt’s comment (#29).
    We need to keep in mind that the concept of religion goes beyond more than just an existential experience of “God.” Religion is about life. Specifically, Christianity is about justice, mercy, and compassion, and about what God is doing with evil (and also with evil-doers). In the end, isn’t religion about God breaking in and acting in our space and time continuum? If so, isn’t the “proof” of God His success in doing so?
    Questions about heaven and hell are important (whatever they mean) because they deal with the fundamental question of Christianity–how is God responding to injustice and evil? To me, how God solves the problem of evil is fundamental to my belief in Him.
    If God says that He is going to solve the problem of evil by sending the wicked to hell and the righteous to His kingdom (whatever those terms mean), then His success in doing so is fundamental to the “truth” of His deity.

  • Brad Cooper

    ChrisB (#50),
    Lucid. Thanks.
    ……
    Why should we claim that Jesus is the only way to the Father? Simple. Because he did and he has told us to do the same. If Jesus is truly Lord, then we have no other option–except for disobedience.
    Jesus told the Jews (who believed themselves to be followers of the one true God): “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24) The Jews responded to Jesus: “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here.” (John 8:41-42)
    True Christianity is not a program for self-actualization–for making us better, more selfless people. The central message of Jesus’ preaching is: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent.” In other words, stop going your own way and bring yourself under God’s rule. True Christianity is about coming under God’s rule (and Jesus is God) and being transformed into Christ’s likeness. Therefore, other religions are not the way to God, because (as the Bible continually proclaims) they’re allegiance is to the rule of false gods (which the Bible says are demons; 1 Cor. 8) and/or to mere men (such as Buddha, Confucius, Marx, Darwin, etc.).
    Claiming this is not hubris. Not claiming this is hubris. Imagine if the CEO of the company you work for comes to you and gives you very specific directions for how things are to be done in the company and asks you to go and explain it to all of the employees. Suppose then, that you decide that it is not important for everyone to do things the way the CEO wants them done. As far as you are concerned, everyone is quite capable of doing things the way they see best, so you just ignore the direction of the CEO. That is hubris. And that is the attitude of those who preach a pluralistic inclusive “gospel” which is really no gospel at all. They have decided that they know better than the CEO (that is Jesus).
    We should make the claim that Jesus is the only way. And we can. No other religion has a book of Scripture that has been accredited by God through hundreds of fulfilled prophecies and miraculous signs that accompanied those through whom it was given. And no other religious leader has risen from the dead never to die again, verifying his claim to be God. This is an exclusive claim and it is one that is justly made. Again this is not hubris. Hubris is not obeying the risen Lord.
    Peace.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad (#40),
    you said: “Jesus said there are two paths (not one). He said there is the very “narrow” exclusive path that leads to life that few people find. And he said that the other path is wide and leads to destruction and lots of people take that one.”
    That is exactly my point! Most religions point to this “narrow path” of self-sacrifice and love of others and community over self. Jesus claimed it and so do many others. It isn’t wrong when someone else says it.
    You also said “Why should I believe this remarkable claim rather than the claims of Scripture?”
    My answer is that this IS the remarkable claim of scripture. You are placing all your faith in one symbolic use of language rather than the meaning that the symbolism points toward. Most faith groups are pointing to these same truths, they simply use different myths as vehicles for the deeper meanings.
    You said: “If all cultures are leading down the same path, then what was the point of the apostles suffering and dying for their message about Jesus?”
    Not all cultures lead toward self-sacrifice. Roman Imperialism for example, does not. The apostles did not suffer and die for any particular religous belief or superstitious claim. Yes, they had religous beliefs. Yes, they were ancient people with superstitious understandings. But, the Romans were superstition too and they never killed people for the sake of particular superstitions. Those early Christians suffered and died because they dared to try and live out Jesus’s message. They correctly interpreted Jesus’ message as a call to non-vilolent protest against the greed, oppression, and injustice of Empire. They were killed for the same reasons that Jesus was killed. They spoke truth to power and believed in truth enough to take up their cross and follow Jesus. If they had claimed the name “fred” as Lord, but still protested and refused to offer allegiance to Rome, they would have been dead fredians.

  • Mark Z.

    ChrisB: Is God personal or impersonal? If the former, you’ve just wiped out the far eastern religions.
    If you ask a Buddhist “Is God personal or impersonal?” the answer you get is going to depend on what Buddhist concept you’re taken to be talking about. You’re actually not talking about any Buddhist concept, so it’s always going to be the wrong answer in your eyes. You’ve rigged the question to create a dispute. “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
    (In the interest of orthodoxy, I don’t remember Jesus ever taking a position on whether God is personal or impersonal.)
    Is Jesus God? If so, you’re down to Christianity.
    Some branches of Hinduism teach that Jesus is God.
    More precisely, they teach that everyone, including Jesus, is God. At this point you might refine your test question into “Is Jesus, and not anyone else, God?” But that’s a very weird question for a Trinitarian to ask. Further refinements are possible, but make it increasingly obvious that you’re trying to draw a line around the peculiar contours of Christianity.

  • Jimmie

    I’ve got to say one more thing, then I’ll get out of here. At some point we, or I should speak for myself only, I, had to decide what I would hold in the higher regard: Jesus or the bible.
    In my opinion, Jesus is the revelation of God. The bible is not – it is a record of that revelation – and I think that it may be an incomplete record.
    For Jesus continues to reveal God and His love today, and the bible stopped recording that revelation a long time ago.

  • Rick

    Jimmie #57-
    The continuing importance of Scripture comes from that fact that Jesus/God inspired it.
    As NT Wright wrote:
    “The Bible, then, is designed to function through human beings, through the church, through people who, living still by the Spirit, have their life molded by this Spirit-inspired book. What for? Well, as Jesus said in John 20, ‘As the Father sent me, even so I send you’. He sends the church into the world, in other words, to be and do for the world what he was and did for Israel.”

  • Brad Cooper

    Mark Z (#56),
    You’re playing word games with ChrisB. What ChrisB said was quite clear, accurate and to the point.
    In order to try and trap ChrisB, you are in fact the one playing the game you accuse him of when you ask the question whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not.

  • http://plukevdh.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/if-you-read/ Anonymous

    If you read… « No Chains on Me…

    [...] If you read anything at all tonight, read this posting on the Jesus Creed called Our Reasonable Faith. It is an excellent conversation on a lot of what I’ve been speaking about here. Don’t just read the article (its a short one) but dig into the comments made afterwards. Some great thoughts coming out of a large group of people. Also, perhaps it’ll show you I’m not the only one thinking over this stuff, that perhaps this postmodern community is a little bigger and more serious than you think [...]

  • mariam

    John#36
    Thank you for your kind words. The example of my Muslim friend is a bit of a play on words. I have a colleague, an Iranian, who I would cast as Jesus, if I was directing a play. He is gentle, humble, lovingly cares for his wife and family, lives simply and with gratitude, make a good salary and gives much of it away, is compassionate and helpful, extends his resources to the less fortunate (so much so that we scold him for being taken advantage of) worships God with humility, rarely says a negative word. He is tolerant and accepting, an inclusive sort who believes we worship the same God. He admires Jesus – we often talk of things we believe in common. He has prayed for my family and often brings me a small token to remind me that he keeps us in his prayers. If I had only him as an example of a righteous man who was not a “Christian” I would have to be inclusionist.
    Brad #41
    It is very good to hear from you again! I wish I could engage more in discussion with you because this is a subject dear to my heart (and yours, I’m sure). I would like to post one of those long rambling posts. But it’s been a long day. Thank you for asking after me. It’s been a tough month. My daughter has been in the hospital. I was afraid we might lose her but she has miraculously bounced back – amazing what food will do. If only she would partake in the bread of heaven for her starved soul! I am, somehow, doing OK. In God I trust. While others seem to be deconstructing their faith I am constructing mine – not that I’ll be agreeing with you on theology any time soon (LOL). Peace my friend. I hope all is well with you.

  • Brad Cooper

    Mariam (#61),
    It is so good to hear from you, also. All is well. Thanks. And I understand what you mean by having to keep things short. I will have to also. I will pray for your daughter.
    Keep building! And may the Chief Architect guide you as you do! Blessings!
    …….
    T,
    I love what you have to say about the place of miracles. I have found that to be very true in my life, also. And it is clearly quite Biblical.
    God shows the reality of his presence, his nearness, his grace, love, power and sovereignty all in one beautiful act when he demonstrates his power in our lives through miracles.
    Peace.
    ……
    VanSkaamper,
    I really appreciate your work on the several posts you’ve made in this thread. Very helpful. Thanks.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive Faith (#51),
    You said: “That is exactly my point! Most religions point to this “narrow path” of self-sacrifice and love of others and community over self. Jesus claimed it and so do many others. It isn’t wrong when someone else says it.”
    Please pay closer attention to what this passage (Matthew 7:13-14) says. You are to eager to make it say what you want it to rather than listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying. The point here is not exactly your point. It is just the opposite. Jesus does not say that most religions point to the “narrow path.” He says that “few” find it (not most).
    Also, where do you think that Jesus said anything like this? I give numerous references in my several posts above where Jesus says just the opposite.
    Again, you say that “this IS the remarkable claim of scripture.” So again I ask: WHERE?
    And once again, it seems to me that you totally invent out of thin air this idea that Jesus and the apostles were killed because they were preaching against the greed, oppression and injustice of the Roman empire. Show me just one sermon or speech in the book of Acts that takes that slant. On the contrary, the message is always focused on declaring the death and resurrection of Jesus….and the resulting implications.
    Finally, although you do not want to accept the exclusiveness declared in the Scriptures, you make it very clear that you have your own criteria for exclusion, as you say: “Not all cultures lead toward self-sacrifice. Roman Imperialism for example, does not.” What gives you the authority to ignore the criteria given in Scripture and to set your own criteria in its place?
    I share for you the same concern that Paul had for the church at Corinth: “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, NIV)

  • http://mysite.verizon.net/resqxbvj/crossroads/ Richard

    Friends, I find my existance, even from my first recorded thoughts, pre-christian and ever now, as a series of events that have been orchestrated to lead me in, and by love, to the answere of the question… “and who do you say I am.” by the words “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
    It is a very, very personal question that makes one realize that it is being asked of all and it is asked us of all. Our confirmation of our personhood, by the blood of the Lamb is constantly challanged, by the faith of another that leads to the light which lit every man.
    The cross, which is in the heart of every man, is there as a sign of resurection or crucifiction, but He is always there in the form of Life or Death, asking that same question… “and who do you say I am.”
    Our intentions of preaching the Good News, rather than the Good News preaching us, is sometimes born out of fear and stems out of our inability to accept us ourselves as God has us, or as He has others, for we sometimes see ourselves more or less than we are and that comes through as being children of a lesser God.

  • Faith J Totushek, fjs

    Re: the question… How can we make a claim that Christianity is the one true religion and we are the people of God?
    I think it is by our fruit that we are known not by our absolute truth. (and don’t think I don’t value truth – I so value the beauty and truth of scripture) Jesus also said that God’s people will be known by their love.
    somehow I believe that God might be revealing his heart first through his character, embodied love. Sometimes i see embodied love in other groups of people who believe different things. And I am not willing to abandon my Christian faith but I think that we know Christ when we see him… where ever he surfaces.
    there is a story about a muslim woman Howa Ibraham.. (didn’t spell it right) who gave up her life to help muslim women who were facing death for being raped. She is a lawyer and uses Sharia law to defend the women in court at great cost to herself. I think her actions are the actions of Jesus embodied in her world. And we find such actions in scripture.
    Again I am not endorsing the idea that there is no truth. I am, however, asserting that we see Christ in places we might not expect.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad (#63),
    you said: “Also, where do you think that Jesus said anything like this?”
    Yes, few find the narrow way of self sacrifice, but you can’t bend the word “few” to mean only those in one religious dogma. Few Christians, few Muslims, few buddhists, few Atheists find this narrow way, but it is not limited to one particular ancient metaphisical belief system.
    Yes, they preached about the death and resurrection of Jesus, but what did that mean? The story of resurrection means that what Rome did, God can overturn. It meant that Rome had the first word on Jesus’ protests, but God will have the last. In the end, the way of God’s justice and mercy will overturn the way of man’s oppression and violence.
    The entire book of revelation is a blast agaist Caesar(the beast) and his ideals of gain through injustice. The Romans certainly understood this about the Christian message. Either Jesus and his followers were really bad at communications, or Rome got their message loud and clear.
    If you want a sermon reference, try Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew(or “on the plain” in Luke). It is a list of detail instructions for non-violent protest against the imperial forces including acts of public humiliation aimed at Roman soldiers (carrying packs the extra mile in subversion of the Roman limit of one mile, and a 1st centry “mooning” by removing undergarments when asked for your cloak).
    Next, read Jesus’ protest in the temple that shut down the commerce center and cash cow of the temple for a day. Notice how he invokes the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 7). What was Jeremiah talking about that made Jesus quote him? Why did he target their income sources for protest rather than their religious beliefs?
    “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7:5-7)
    You may want to domesticate Jesus and make him into a simple fairy-tale claiming religious beleifs as the answer, but those hearing him responded to his words and treated him as a non-violent revolutionary calling out for God’s radical justice and mercy.

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    RJS,
    “How can we make a claim that Christianity is the one true religion and we are the people of God? ”
    I was trying to process all of the comments before posting but I gave up and am going to post before it slips away.
    I recently read “No Perfect People Allowed” by John Burke. Loved it. I think that community and one’s own story are important assets. They aren’t the end-all be-all. Modern thinkers will demand Modern answers. But I think a family-like community and people’s individual experience in seeing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives will be a gentle voice that is hard for the postmodern pilgrim to silence.
    Most religions applaud such virtues as the fruit of the Spirit. But pragmatically, which religions really help one attain them? Some seekers seem to have found that they are in good company to desire such virtues but can’t produce them, but then discover that God the Holy Spirit can do in them what they can’t. This isn’t the most intellectual approach, but then a solid intellectual approach is likely to be rejected out of hand by a postmodern seeker anyway. Hope this makes sense.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    MatthewS,
    I liked your response and your nod to experience as important. However, I wonder if you’ve leaned toward mistaking postmodern thought somehow related to anti-intellectualism.
    Postmodernity is not an attempt to toss out reason and venture back to the days of flat-earth and 6-day creation. If it was, then it wouldn’t be postMODERN. It would be a return of ancient or PREmodern or postAncient thinking. A postmodern approach to faith means accepting when modern reason tells us that our sacred stories are not always “factual” BUT it goes one step further than modern Liberalism. It isn’t enough to simply classify something as factually true or mythical. Postmodern people of faith also recognize that “non-factual” things like art, music, and stories can often be better vehicles to carry truth into our lives and communtities than dry scientific data and historical records.
    Unlike modern thinking secularists and die hard fundamentalists, postmodern people of faith have a chance to embrace reason AND stories. This is a third way. They(we) are more willing to allow reason into the discussion and challenge (deconstruct) the places were ancient dogma had previously forced us into a lapse in reason (like the church’s response to Galileo). Also, we don’t have the need to throw the story out with the bath water (like Nitsche and Freud) just because we realized it was unreasonable to continue assuming our ancestor’s myths were “historically true” while everyone else’s ancestor’s myths were “just silly myths”.

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    Progressive Faith,
    I didn’t quite make myself clear. It is hard to give all the necessary caveats to indicate an informed understanding of postmodernism that is truly an intellectual construct that comes in the wake of modernism’s failed promises, rather than a naive return to premodernism. I understand your well stated summary and I don’t confuse postmodern thinking with either premodern or anti-intellectualism.
    But part of RJS’s question is how to communicate the truth of our faith in a relativistic age (would it be too bold to restate this as “how to communicate an exclusive truth claim in a relativistic world?”). I don’t travel in her circles so I don’t know what answer will satisfy her colleagues. But here is my point – a lot of people today are not asking, “Can you convince me that Christianity makes sense?” If someone is, you can point them to Josh McDowell. But it is just as likely that a person is really asking, “Do I want to be like you?”
    My point is not that postmoderns don’t use their brain. My point is that a true Christian friend or a true Christian community might succeed where an intellectual argument might fail. Not because the seeker is anti-intellectual, but because the intellectual arguments alone fail to convince. You with me?

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Matthew (#69),
    Well said. I agree.
    Are you also suggesting that the truths of Christianity are exclusive and therefore it would be difficult to communicate in a “relativistic world?”
    I guess the point of the original post is… Does Christianity have anything to do with getting people to drop their ability to reason and adopt an ancient worldview based their certainty that other faiths are “wrong”. My answer is “No”. I don’t think it has to be that way.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    My point is not that postmoderns don’t use their brain. My point is that a true Christian friend or a true Christian community might succeed where an intellectual argument might fail. Not because the seeker is anti-intellectual, but because the intellectual arguments alone fail to convince.
    I think most people come to faith through Christian community and knowing another Christian. It is rare indeed that someone sets out to understand the meaning of life and the world and systematically evaluates Christianity (among other possible templates for meaning) and then concludes that the typical evangelical doctrines of the faith answer those questions more adequately and reasonably.
    Most of us are drawn to a portrait of faith lived by friends or a community, through an emotional or personally meaningful series of serendipitous experiences that lead to what I would call a “catharsis of faith.” A confession of faith has more to do with aligning oneself with the Christian-specific version of truth or forgiveness or love offered to us through our Christian loved ones or friends or new acquaintances.
    It is often only after we’ve bonded to a community that discipleship or teaching or explanation of the content of the faith is introduced. And at that point, I find that the dangers of indoctrination are at their peak! At the point that I have found joy, peace, love, forgiveness and friends through Jesus, I am the most likely to not think with my head but with my hope and heart, trusting that what I’m being taught has already been thought through rationally and I don’t have to subject the teachings to the level of reasonable scrutiny I might otherwise.
    This is precisely why by mid-life there is such an exodus, such a crisis of faith for many as they confront their beliefs from a more dispassionate intellectual standpoint. Suddenly the question of whether or not creation happened in 6 days takes on an importance it didn’t when first converted at 20 or 16 or 31.
    The inerrancy of Scripture becomes a realistic question because suddenly you may find that you only “adopted” it as a belief, you never arrived at it yourself through your own process of thinking about it (perhaps now you will never have the chance as you are faced with all those years of teaching to overcome and you can’t ever face the Scriptures freshly without that inhibiting template).
    So all that to say: when we ask if Christianity is the superior truth to all others – that question in my mind comes from a need to defend a doctrine taught to us, not intrinsically arrived at through our own inductive experience and reason.
    I’d rather people start from a place of not looking at Christianity as a “thing” out “there” to defend or promote, but as that interaction with the riches of the faith as it first enlivened you… and live there for awhile and let the doctrines take a back seat and see where the Spirit guides. We need fresh looks at faith, not better defended ones.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive Faith (#66),
    You accuse me of “domesticating” Jesus. Amazing! That’s like the pot calling the kettle black. You reduce Jesus to a common political rebel who taught some lame-brained idea that people could make a difference in the world by mooning Roman soldiers….and who was then easily outwitted and overpowered and put to death leaving Rome politically unchanged.
    But the Scriptures clearly proclaim that Jesus is no ordinary man but is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament–in fact, God in the flesh, Creator of the universe and Sovereign Ruler of all. He was not outwitted and overpowered but knew of his coming death long before the time came and gave his life willingly. You reduce him to a man with designs to confront the Roman government, but his plans are much bigger than that. His plans are to take over the entire planet. The Jesus you present is a complete failure. His ideas for non-violent protest are silly and nothing he attempted succeeded. The Jesus you present never existed. But the Jesus who is never failed at anything but makes everything to conform to his will. And one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that this Jesus is Lord.
    I was tempted to say that you are an imaginative storyteller and a creative exegete. But upon further reflection, I realize that the myth you are handing down here did not originate with you. It was handed down to you from others who redacted it from the works of Spinoza, Reimarus, Voltaire and others in the deistic/liberal lineage. I recommend that you consider the motivation inherent in the sitz em leben behind this story so that you can demythologize it and come to know the truth. (This, BTW, is essentially the thesis behind an excellent scholarly work by Harrisville & Sundberg: “The Bible in Modern Culture.”) In other words, the story of Jesus that you tell has absolutely no basis in reality. And it can easily be shown to be the invention of men who were highly motivated to try and destroy the credibility of the Bible as part of their own political agenda. Nothing more. Nothing less.
    Beyond this, the “gospel” that you present seems to be a gospel of self-righteousness (consistent with the deism to which you seem to hold). You seem to think that you have no need for Christ’s death as the real substitutionary atonement for your sin. You seem confident that you will be among the few who will make it down the narrow path and save yourself. If I am correct in this assessment, then you are deceived. Then you are a white-washed tomb filled with a dead man’s bones. No matter how hard you try to clean things up on the outside, your sin remains. And the guilt for the destruction you cause continues to pile up day by day. It cuts you off from life with God. And your rebel Jesus can do nothing about it. But then you don’t believe any of that anyways. It’s all a fairytale….or is it?
    All that being said, I conclude: Jesus stands alone and far above all others who make any type of claim to reconcile people to God. There is no other name by which you or anyone else can be saved from your estrangement from your Creator.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive Faith (#66),
    If you’re at all interested, feel free to read on and I will deal with some remaining issues in your last post under the following points:
    1. I’ll be generous and say that your interpretation of the narrow path in Matt. 7:13-14 would be possible, but highly doubtful within the context of First Century Judaism. And it certainly is not explicit or even a natural interpretation of the language here. Furthermore, it is contradictory to the explicit statements that Jesus and his followers made saying that belief in him is the only path (many of which I have already noted above and to which I could add John 14:6 and Acts 4:12, already noted by VanSkaamper in #3). This makes your interpretation completely unsupportable, as you are unable to produce even one explicit reference in support of your position.
    2. You said: “Yes, they preached about the death and resurrection of Jesus, but what did that mean?” Glad you asked. The New Testament is filled with interpretations related to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The interpretations always focus around forgiveness of sins, victory over death, and proof that Jesus is the Messiah. None of their interpretations are anything like the one you give. If you disagree, please show me where. If you’re interested in some good guidance on this, I highly recommend John Stott’s classic book “The Cross of Christ.”
    3. You said: “If you want a sermon reference, try Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew(or “on the plain” in Luke). It is a list of detail instructions for non-violent protest against the imperial forces including acts of public humiliation aimed at Roman soldiers (carrying packs the extra mile in subversion of the Roman limit of one mile, and a 1st centry “mooning” by removing undergarments when asked for your cloak).”
    This is a ludicrous interpretation of these passages (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36). These passages are all about loving your enemies. If you think that protesting and humiliation is the kind of love that Jesus had in mind, then you clearly have no idea what the love of Jesus is all about. The central idea here is to “bless those who curse you” (Lk. 6:28)–a refrain which Paul repeats several times in his letters. It’s not possible to take a serious look at these passages and come up with the idea that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is about non-violent protest. Again, check the inherent motivation behind forcing such an interpretation onto the text. Besides mooning a Roman soldier would not be much of a protest in a culture where public nudity was a common part of everyday life (e.g., the public baths, the gymnasium, the games, etc.); it might be offensive to many of the Jews who you say were being asked to do this, but not to the Roman soldiers.
    4. Indeed the message of Jesus and the apostles carried a major emphasis on social justice. No one would agree with you more about that than I do. (At the liberal seminary that I attended, students once mistaked my work as belonging to someone with a liberationist theology.) Galatians 2:10 makes it clear that remembering the poor must accompany the preaching of the gospel. But if remembering the poor were the message, then it would hardly make sense to ask them to remember. It is a major emphasis but it is a secondary one. It is the ethic that reveals that the main message has been received and begun its transformation in the lives of its hearers (James 1:27; 2:14-17; etc.).
    Paul makes perfectly clear what the major emphasis of the gospel is: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared” (1 Cor. 15:3-5, NIV) And when he did so, he went on to make it perfectly clear that the resurrection was no “fairytale” (as you call it) but was witnessed by himself, by the apostles and by over 500 others who were still living in case they were compelled to investigate the issue for themselves (as did Dr. Luke: cf. Luke 1:1-4; also see his resurrection narrative and the first 6 verses
    of Acts, etc.).
    5. You said: “Next, read Jesus’ protest in the temple that shut down the commerce center and cash cow of the temple for a day. Notice how he invokes the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 7). What was Jeremiah talking about that made Jesus quote him? Why did he target their income sources for protest rather than their religious beliefs?”
    Why did he not target their religious beliefs? I have a better question. Why do you ignore the first passage that Jesus quotes? “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Mark 11:17; Isaiah 56:7) If you read this passage, you will see that Jesus’ first and main concern is for bringing the Gentiles into a relationship with God. And he was confronting the Jews for not reserving the court of the Gentiles for its intended purpose but rather (the secondary concern) using it for conducting perverse business practices.

  • http://mysite.verizon.net/resqxbvj/crossroads/ Richard

    Good stuff, I love the rock bottom that the Holy Spirit exposes as His nest. We can all rest assured that relationship minus Truth seeks comfort in any form avialable to stay in relationship; as with the unclean spirits asking to be cast into the pigs.
    Our banner, Love, raised and flowing high, leads and participates in the battle won. There is not a rock to be left unshatered as the Rock Himself proves to be all comfort, the healing of the nations… the altogether lovely one.
    The Bride, the body of Christ, has no desire to be joined to a religion… her desire is her Lover head with whom she is joined as one flesh in Spirit. The living and present Son of God, who became sin that we might become His rightousness, the rightousness of God the Father.
    Mariam, my heart goes out to you and your daughter as He will continue to show Himself as being closer than a brother even in pain. He has not forgotten the desire in your heart for Himself. Rest assured of the tears in the bottle as being valid and His presence continual which is the right track.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad (#72 & #73)
    To “believe” in someone does not always mean to think they existed vs. didn’t exist. It also does not mean to believe they are a supernatural being. Even in Greek, the word we translate belief (Pistos) is more commonly used to convey allegiance and agreement with someone’s vision or their “way”. When I say that I “believe in Jesus” it means I agree and follow his message (his way). He is my Lord. This is why early Christians were called people of the “the way”. Only in the later dogmatic competitive ideals of institutionalized religion did it become a belief in his supernatural powers or metaphysical superiority over other gods and myths.
    Please refrain from lumping me in the deist category. I disagree with deism. I do not see God as a being living “out there” ocassionally tinkering in time and space. John Stott’s work is a wonderful example of how people often force a beautiful narrative into a modern systematic dogma and are unable to see the imagination of the minds who created our sacred stories. I’m not a fan.
    Try Walter Wink’s “Jesus and Non-violence” for a wonderful exegesis of Jesus’ sermon on the mount as he instructed his followers in the art of subversive non-violent protest against imperialism and oppression.
    I think you are correct to imply that the deeper meaning of Jesus’ life is forgiveness and reconciliation. But, when people tell their story (as did Jesus, Paul, and others in the new testament) we hear their statement through the lens of their worldview. The purpose of reading these stories is to understand their meaning (forgiveness and reconciliation), not so we can brainwash ourselves and force modern people to adopt their ancient worldview. You seem more intent on force fitting a pre-modern worldview than you do in thinking about the deeper meanings of the stories.
    To relate this back to the original post…
    If the true meanings of Christ’s story is forgiveness and reconciliation, then are you suggesting those same values are wrong when we find them in other stories?
    Should we pledge allegience to God’s will or these particular stories and terminology that teach us God’s will?

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive Faith (#75),
    Thanks for continuing the conversation. I sense that you and I are a lot alike in some ways. For instance, I think we are probably both very stubborn, passionate people……which results in both of us making numerous long, rambling posts long after everyone else has moved on. ;)
    I don’t mean to try and pigeonhole you. Please tell me what you think your worldview is. I simply find it helpful to figure that out in these kinds of conversations because it makes a great deal of difference in the meaning of what one says. In other words, the better understanding I have of your worldview, the more likely I am to understand what it is you are trying to say. This is especially helpful to me in a conversation with someone whose worldview is radically different from mine.
    So please tell me what you think your worldview is. How do you see God at work in the world?
    I think deism is a fairly broad term but you definitely seem to embrace some of the main points of deism.
    The first and most important point for deists has always been the denial of the Bible as a supernatural revelation. They attacked this point with vigor because they saw how badly the institutional church and governments had abused their power by appealing to the Bible.
    From this point they found it expedient to deny all revealed religion. And the next logical step after that was to deny any supernatural intervention of any kind. And their primary means of attack on this issue was to mock it as superstition. All of this led to the denial of Jesus’ divinity, substitutionary atonement, and resurrection.
    In spite of all of this, they found cosmological arguments for the existence of God by guys like Samuel Clarke to be too powerful to overcome intellectually. And besides, they felt it was pragmatic for people and rulers to have some sense that they would be held accountable for their actions.
    With this future divine judgement in mind, they needed to live a good life (or at least do some good things….most of them seemed to pretty much live by their own rules and decide for themselves what was good and I think their self-absorption is generally too obvious)….They were self-righteous. Their own deeds would justify them.
    At any rate, they decided that there must be a God but that he was not the author of the Bible and didn’t interfere in everyday life. He created the world with a set of laws and then left it completely alone to run itself. This, of course, led to naturalism.
    I still have a lot to learn about deism, but I think this is a pretty solid picture of this worldview. Perhaps you would add some other distinctions….
    Of course, in the last hundred years, some deists have added a layer to their worldview. Reacting to the barrenness and meaningless that many felt resulted in the mechanistic naturalness of this view, many began to turn to existentialism….while still holding to the other main tenets of deism. (I think that most existentialists would object to this, but until someone can explain to me my error, I believe it is accurate. And today, as I’ve reflected on our conversation, I’ve been wondering if you might consider yourself an existentialist…..)
    By the way, I don’t consider the Biblical worldview to be pre-modern. I consider it to be unbound by eras of time, that is eternal, revealed by God himself. And naturalism is far from being modern. It is quite ancient. Many first century people had a naturalistic worldview and denied any supernatural intervention. Among the Jews, it would seem that the Sadduccees held such a deistic worldview. So it is not as if the writers of the New Testament simply had no other worldview options to work with and were just doing the best they could do at the time. There was a smorgasboard of worldview options in the sycretistic/comsopolitan atmosphere of the First Century Roman empire.
    Most importantly, though, I have found that in my relationship with God over the last 45 years that this Biblical worldview works. It fits the reality of my life experience, of other believers that I know, and of the world as it is.
    And I have not held this worldview blindly either. There have been several moments of crisis in my life when others challenged my worldview and I examined the issues carefully.
    One last thing, the predominant meaning for the Greek word pistos is trusting or trustworthy, as in believing that someone is reliable. This is its primary meaning in both classical Greek and in the New Testament. (See Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.) This belief or trust in the New Testament is about trusting a real living person who acts and relates to us in a trustworthy way.
    The idea of interpreting Jesus’ death and resurrection existentially rather than as an actual historical event occurred quite early actually. Paul had to correct this misconception in 1 Corinthians 15:
    “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:12-17, NIV)
    Peace.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad (#76),
    I think many problems in conversations result from people making up their own definitions of the views of others. That isn’t productive. In other words, you should ask a deist how they arrived at deism and what it means. Don’t guess and don’t ask me. What you’ve done here is spit out something taught in a fundamentlist “worldview” course or Trinitarian theology 101 at a bible college. It is a misrepresentation of all other views in order to support a strict theism that it means to instruct. This is like asking Rush Limbaugh to explain liberalism or asking Nero to explain Christianity. You have little chance of getting an accurate definition with that approach.
    Given what I’ve learned about your theology, I suspect by “worldview” you mean how the universe works. If that is what your asking, then my answer is… we are learning more everyday. I yeild to the realm of science to explain the universe. Science is the best collection of wisdom and understanding that we have at the present moment. We will know more tomorrow than we did yesterday.
    My faith has nothing to do with one particular belief or guess at a “worldview”. It has to do with trusting and providing our allegiance (pistos) to Jesus’ vision for a possible future scenario involving ourselves, our societies, and humanity at large. I imagine God is the source of being, the source of love, the source of community. If I were a deist (I’m not) I would need to imagine God as an external being rather than the ground of all being.
    If you truely adopt a biblical worldview, then you would need to take 6-day creation, flat earth, limited universe, and interpret all sicknesses as demonic possession or curses from God. I doubt you really have a “biblical worldview”. Do you?

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive Faith (#77),
    You said: “I think many problems in conversations result from people making up their own definitions of the views of others. That isn’t productive. In other words, you should ask a deist how they arrived at deism and what it means. Don’t guess and don’t ask me.”
    Once again the pot calls the kettle black as you immediately follow the above statement with: “What you’ve done here is spit out something taught in a fundamentlist “worldview” course or Trinitarian theology 101 at a bible college. It is a misrepresentation of all other views in order to support a strict theism that it means to instruct.”
    Actually, I never learned a thing about deism or existentialism at a fundamentalist Bible college. I learned it first hand at a United Methodist seminary. My New Testament professor (and good friend) was a Bultmannian and heavily influenced by Bonhoeffer. (As I recall, he considered himself an intellectual grandchild to Bultmann–that his own mentor in New Testament studies was a student of Bultmann.) Though we debated with each other frequently, we came to have great respect and affection for each other. He was one of the most brilliant people I have ever known (M.Div. from Harvard and Ph.D.’s from the University of Chicago and from Vanderbilt) and knew the background of the New Testament like no one else I have ever met. One of the biggest regrets in my life is that I did not consider more seriously his offer to be his teaching assistant for New Testament Greek.
    One of my theology professors was a process theology panentheist and my other theology professor was a Korean from the Unification Church (commonly known as “Moonies”) who was heavily influenced by quantum physics and Paul Tillich. My best friend at seminary was a big Kierkegaard fan. And the other worldviews represented there spanned the gamut from new age pantheism to Barthian to liberal Catholic to black liberation theology to feminist to you name it. This is where I was introduced to these different worldviews. I didn’t really understand many of them very well at the time and I’m still learning.
    As far as deism is concerned, I have been learning about it through numerous different sources over the last several years (including those who call themselves deists), but I don’t think I’ve read anything about deism by anyone that would be considered a fundamentalist.
    Most recently I have been learning from world-renowned enlightenment scholar Dr. Alan Charles Kors of the University of Pennsylvania (not exactly a fundamentalist Bible college….but rather an internationally recongized university for the study of history) via a set of 12 30-minute lectures on cassette entitled “Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment.”
    The course info says this about Dr. Kors: “In more than two decades of distinguished teaching at Penn, Professor Kors has proven himself a top scholar and award-winning classroom performer. He has written numerous books and articles on French and British intellectual history, and has won two awards for distinguished college teaching and several awards for the defense of academic freedom. He is the editor-in-chief of the Oxford University Press Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment.” I’d consider him a fairly reliable source. Wouldn’t you? I believe that Dr. Kors touches on most of the points that I mentioned and goes into a good deal of depth on a couple of them.
    I’ve listened to it four times now and hope to listen to it again. I’ve also read some of Voltaire’s own writings and brief articles from other sources.
    You go on to say: “It is a misrepresentation of all other views in order to support a strict theism that it means to instruct. This is like asking Rush Limbaugh to explain liberalism or asking Nero to explain Christianity. You have little chance of getting an accurate definition with that approach.”
    Once again, it has seemed to me all along that you think that you have me pegged. It also seems clear that you are predetermined to make the Bible agree with your ideas. In fact, it may well be that the problem that you say is mine is actually your own. I believe at some point in your life you have in fact found yourself “asking Nero (or someone who hates what Scripture really says) to explain Christianity” (perhaps Spong–or even Tillich himself….who is really an intellectual descendant/mutant of Spinoza….not technically a deist but a fellow enlightenment conspirator against the Bible and similar to deists in many repsects). Indeed, with with such avowed enemies of Scripture you are correct that “You have little chance of getting an accurate definition with that approach.”
    I will be praying that God delivers you from this demonic web of deception, because with these men–or others like them–as your guides, you will never come to know the true God. He longs to have his relationship with you made whole but will not force you to listen. Nonetheless, he speaks clearly if you will only listen.
    You will no doubt take this as an offense. But I mean it sincerely in love. Peace.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progression of Faith

    Brand,
    So everyone that isn’t a fundamentalist hates scripture?
    hiss eeck
    I think my head spun around and my voice droped an octave.
    That’s a great idea! Just blame every other opinion on imaginary demons.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progression of Faith (#79),
    Never said anything like that. But the men that I mentioned have explicitly stated their hatred (even vehemently) for the things revealed in Scripture and even for the Scripture in general.
    I don’t blame everything on demons by a long shot. These wicked men carry plenty of the blame themselves. But I do not hesitate to express the same opinion as Scripture that these things are inspired by demons.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progression of Faith

    Brad,
    Do you have a quote of any of those people suggesting they hate scripture? Do you have any record of them doing or saying anything “wicked” that would warrant what you suggest? Have you witnessed their heads spin or eyes twitch or whatever criteria you would use to suggest their demonic possesion?

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Hey, partners! This conversation has taken a fairly sour turn. :(
    Progression of Faith #77, (or Progressive Faith?)
    “If you truely adopt a biblical worldview, then you would need to take 6-day creation, flat earth, limited universe, and interpret all sicknesses as demonic possession or curses from God. I doubt you really have a “biblical worldview”. Do you?”
    Wow. I’m wondering where you get this definition of a “biblical worldview”?
    Brad — good to see you back at Jesus Creed…but it seems like you rode into town with a burr under your saddle, brother!
    And it seems like the two of you are talking past each other … and not listening to each other well enough to understand instead of react.
    I know this is at the end of this thread, but I’m still hoping for a higher bar to conversation here that includes more grace and less inflammatory language and accusations.
    Shalom — truly.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Great points Peggy! Thanks for helping out.
    I’m not familiar with a definition for “biblical worldview”. It is a term Brad used and I was hoping to understand it. In my response, I “guessed” that it might mean somehow adopting the ancient worldview of the biblical authors. I’m not sure there could be a single view across centuries and different cultures represented in our sacred texts. Hopefully Brad can unpack that term for us.
    Getting underneath terminology in a diverse conversation is always a bit tricky and at times it does feel like people are “talking past each other”. Often, the solution is just unpacking terms that might be foriegn to some and common to others. I feel like the more we unpack the more likely we are able to find agreement. It takes effort and patience. Cyber dialogue can be fruitful even if it more direct and clumbsy. I have many friends in the real world with similar views to Brad, so it helps me to hear his arguments. I couldn’t have that dialogue in the real world without damaging relationships.
    Brad,
    If you’ll notice, my criticism was NOT of your views, but instead I was taking issue with your attempt to stereotype the views of others. So I don’t think the pot/kettle remark applies. This conversation might be better served elsewhere.
    Peace

  • Brad Cooper

    Peggy (#82) & Progressive Faith (#83),
    Sorry for the delay in response. I was the sickest I can remember being in years from Saturday through Sunday and did not have the strength to respond.
    Peggy,
    I appreciate your efforts as a mediator here and your perspective is respected. But the reality is that I just happened to have a few spare moments this past week and decided to see what was going on at Jesus Creed. When I saw that RJS was doing a series on apologetic issues, I decided I had to make time for it. Apologetics has long been my passion (since I was a teenager) and in the last several years it has become increasingly clear that this is to be the focus of my ministry within the Church.
    So–far from having a burr in my saddle–I was very excited about the opportunity. But I will be honest that I was caught off guard by the range of responses to these issues. I was frankly saddened.
    But what saddened me most was that I perceived that some have been deceived–and not on insignificant, trivial issues, but on the most central of issues: that God is personal, that God is the omnipotent creator of the universe, that God is sovereign and intervenes in behalf of the people he has created, that Jesus is not only man but also God, that Jesus not only died but rose again to never die again, and that his death is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
    These are all central to the message of the gospel. An outright rejection of these things is a rejection of the One who has revealed them. Yet these people have been lulled into believing that putting their faith in Tillich or Bultmann or others (or what they perceive as these men’s reduction of Jesus’ vision) is essentially the same as putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
    Therefore I felt obligated to first of all clarify if my perception was correct and then to try and help them understand how they had been led astray. This is the example laid down by Jesus and the apostles. So I do not apologize for having done so. But if I have failed to do so in grace and love, then I am truly sorry.
    Shalom to you, also.
    ………..
    Progressive Faith,
    I do appreciate the dialogue. It has helped me. And it has motivated me to investigate some of the issues more thoroughly.
    As I have reflected on our dialogue since Peggy’s mediation, I am concerned about how my approach to this dialogue has been perceived. I don’t want to do anything that would hurt you or cause you to be hardened against the gospel. And as you have noted, dialogue by this medium can be somewhat clumsy at times. Communication of love comes quite naturally in face to face conversations. But in dialogues such as these it is easy to focus on the issues rather than the person being communicated with (especially when you do not really know the person). So I hope that you will forgive me if I have come accross as unloving. Truly the only reason that I have spent so much time writing these posts is because I do care about you.
    Peace.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Progressive Faith,
    Perhaps James Sire’s book “The Universe Next Door” might be helpful. It is a basic worldview catalog, the latest copy of have is its fourth edition from 2004.
    Anyway, Sire says that a worldview is something that answers these seven questions:
    1. What is prime reality — the really real.
    2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
    3. What is a human being?
    4. What happens to a person at death?
    5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
    6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
    7. What is the meaning of human history?
    It’s a very helpful book, as it processes these seven questions through the filters of Christina Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Eastern Pantheistic Monism, The New Age, and Postmodernism … with a few branches shooting off here and there.
    He ends the book with a few ideas of how to choose — or characteristics of an adequate worldview:
    1. It has inner intellectual coherence
    2. It is able to comprehend the data of reality — all types — and carefully evaluate them all
    3. It explains what is claims to explain
    4. It is subjectively satisfactory — scratches where we itch, as it were.
    Shalom to you — and just because the folks you converse with here are in the virtual realms, I hope that doesn’t mean that you think it’s okay to dialog in ways that are so direct as to be hurtful. There are lots of folk listening in from the porch, as we say here at the One T….

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    And Brad…we were composing our posts around the same time!
    Thanks for your gracious response … I am so sorry to hear you were ill. I am praying that you’re feeling better, although I know that it takes it out of you for many days after that kind of illness!
    One of the things I am trying to learn here is to ask better questions, rather than blasting away at my opinions. I’m still a long way off to being up to snuff, but I’m determined to make a good effort.
    I don’t think RJS was intending that we resolve the question, but that we begin to think about it in this conversation … I’m looking forward to catching up some — I frequently get behind on the chat!
    Be blessed, brother.

  • Bob

    What’s nice about this blog is that the conversation continues on e-mail. This must be the longest running thread at Jesus Creed. As I listen to Brad and Progressive I see these issues being played out in this election and how the candidates cozy up to the various groups that hold these different religious positions. I can’t see how unity is going to happen unless Christ comes back and sets every right. Although Christ is already the unifying principle. at some level unity in enjoyed and other levels it is not.
    Progressive is a personification of the Left and Brad of the Right.

  • RJS

    Brad,
    I am glad you decided to get involved.
    I am also convinced that apologetics is important – which is of course why I am putting time into this series in the first place. But Peggy’s right – I don’t think we will resolve all issues here, and that’s not the goal. I certainly don’t agree with all of the comments made. But I think that the conversation is invaluable. I learn a great deal from the perspective of others.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    I think there is hope for unity. The way to get there is for everyone to step back from his or her stereotypes and prejudices. For too long, we’ve let people make blanket statements about the left and the right. Neither stereotype is usually correct. That was my criticism above to Brad. He made blanket statements about people that were not accurate. If you start from mistaken assumptions, the conversation gets sideways in a hurry.
    There is a 3rd way beyond the two polar modern reactions, but it requires people to let go of the modern notion of defending the “factuality” of our sacred stories. Modern people on both sides were overly concerned with the historical facts behind stories. On the left, people threw out the stories simply because they were mythical in nature and therefore “untrue”. People on the right buried their heads in the sand and tried to develop apologetics to prove the stories are historically accurate and therefore “true”. Neither approach is fruitful. Each side misses the point of the stories.
    The way beyond this is to allow the stories to hold an authority in our lives (the best of the right), but no longer force them to be “facts” than can’t be reconciled (the best of the left). They were never meant to be facts or historical records. They are parables. They can be profoundly true, yet not factual. Once we can get to that point, there is great room for agreement as we work together (left and right) to make their truths about God’s kingdom a reality on Earth as it is in heaven.
    Lastly, I don’t think it is fair to lump me in as the stereotype for “the left”. As you can see, I’m suggesting a very different postmodern approach that moves beyond that modernist left/right arguments about facts and systems. I’m no Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. The Bible is God’s word and Christ is my Savior and Lord. There is hope for a reconciliation of faith and reason. We can keep our authoritative sacred stories without checking our brains at the door of the church.
    Thanks for the dialogue. I really mean that.

  • Brad Cooper

    Peggy (#86),
    I am feeling much better but still regaining strength and trying to get rid of the last of the symptoms. Thanks.
    I am also trying to learn how to ask better questions.
    Blessings to you as well. :)
    ………….
    RJS (#88),
    I totally agree. We will never have complete answers to all of our questions in this present life and I believe that there will still remain some mystery even in the next life….as God will always be infinitely greater than us.
    But there are some things that we can be sure of. The Scriptures make this clear. And it is on these essential issues that I must declare with the same confidence and boldness as is exemplified in the New Testament (to people who were just as skeptical as people today are)…..And it looks like this is the issue of your current thread which I have not yet had time to read…..
    Peace. And once again, thanks! :)
    ………
    Progressive (#89),
    I do sincerely appreciate the dialogue, also.
    I know that you are sincere about what you believe. Bultmann and his buddies have been teaching everything you’ve been saying for a long time–including Bultmann’s lie that the Bible’s worldview includes a flat earth sandwiched between a physically tangible heaven and hell. And they have influenced a lot of people.
    They are very clever in the way they empty the Christian faith of almost all of the content put there by the Scriptures (maintaining that this is as it must be) and replace it with their own barren ideologies (all the while maintaining that it is just what the Bible really means–even though the resemlbance is very thin).
    They are also very clever in the way that they call the Biblical writers false witnesses (cf. 1 Cor. 15:15) and yet pretend that they did not.
    After all either Jesus did appear to the apostles and 500 other people over a period of 40 days and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive or he didn’t (cf. Acts 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:1ff). Their testimony is either true or it is false. Either it happened or they’re liars. You can’t have it both ways. It’s not possible for an honest person to say: “It doesn’t really matter if they made this stuff up and convinced people that it’s true. It’s the meaning of these things that counts.” As they said themselves, these things have no meaning unless they really happened.
    But I urge you not to put your faith in them but in the testimony of Jesus’ chosen apostles and of the Holy Spirit who has preserved their testimony.
    Because when you come to the point of calling Jesus’ death for sins and his resurrection from the dead, his ascension, and his second coming mere parables and not actual events–you are talking about a different Jesus and a different religion, not Christianity. If I am misunderstanding your beliefs at this point, please correct me.
    As much as I care about you, it does not change this. This is not my assessment. Neither you or I have the perogative to decide what the content of the Christian faith is–nor do Bultmann and his buddies. These things are the clear and unswerving teaching of the New Testament and of the historical Church. This is what they taught and preached and what they died for:
    “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared….” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, NIV)
    “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead….And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:14-17, NIV)
    “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead….Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father….I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:1-4, 11-12, NIV)
    “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:18-25, NIV)
    May you and all who read this be filled with wisdom, knowledge and understanding by the Spirit of the Living God who raised Jesus from the dead, led Jesus’ apostles in all truth according to his promise, and who has also made good on his promise to preserve that Word forever.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad (#90),
    This thread was started to discuss the intersection of REASON and faith. I know you feel compelled to evangelize people, but I’d like to discuss the original topic. I think it is perfectly reasonable to say the stories are both true and non-historical. This is a way to reconcile and move beyond the modern fixation on historical facts and systematic certainty. Faith doesn’t have to be unreasonable and secularists don’t have a monopoly on reason.
    I appreciate your passion and I understand how it feels to hear someone suggest that the bible might not be what we were taught as children. Do you hear that as a slam against the bible? That is NOT at all what I think. I was raised in a conservative church and was taught that same literal interpretation of scripture. Many people lose their faith when they grow up and feel like they have been mislead because they were only taught that one way to see scripture. It is unfortunate. I wish more people in churches would make it known that there are more than 2 choices (atheism or fundamentalism). The left / right battle that has waged for centuries drives many people away from faith completely. I really wish you would reconsider presenting a false limitation on the choices. At a minimum, you should be honest enough to acknowledge the other options even if you disagree with them.
    “Their testimony is either true or it is false. Either it happened or they’re liars.”
    Well, there are clearly more than those 2 choices. Neither of those are the most obvious option. It was (and still is) very normal for writers to teach in parable. In Jewish tradition, it’s called Midrash. It is the norm for how these ancient rabbis taught about the truths of life and about their historic ancestors. It makes perfect sense that as Jesus taught his followers about God through parables, that the disciples taught through parables about Jesus and connected him to their own ancient stories (prophecies). This is not “a lie”. It’s storytelling. Modern secularists (liberals if you prefer) often make the mistake of trying to discredit this type of teaching. Modern fundamentalists often make the same assumption that truth is only found in facts, so they over literalize the stories hoping to prove them as factual.
    One choice (not necessarily the best) is that the terms and stories you quoted were never meant to be literalized. Terms like “son of God” and “king of kings” along with stories about divine birth, resurrection, and ascension were used symbolicly to make the case that Jesus is replacing Caesar as our leader(God/Lord). Caesar had similar stories with all the same claims. If Jesus is our Lord, then surely he must deserve the same types of stories to immortalize his life. In this case, they were not lying, yet people later took the stories literally.
    These other options are clearly “possible” because we see those techniques used frequently in other cultures and even in these same cultures. The reason some view Christianity as “unreasonable” is because Christians often reject reason as if it is a dirty word that threatens our faith. When you simply reject options and pretend they don’t exist, you play into the stereotype of “unreasonable Christians”.
    When you speak about “worldview”, I hope you will be honest about what we can assume given the authors of scripture. What did they likely believe about the origins of life, the structure of the universe, the nature of humanity, body/soul dualism (or lack thereof), sickness and superstition, and afterlife? There is no single view in the bible regarding these issues. Is our goal in reading scripture to decipher and then adopt the worldview of its authors or would we be better served to note their views and then consider it as we look for the truths that are told through those ancient perspectives?
    Thanks for your closing prayer. I appreciate it and have the same hope for us all.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive (#91),
    You said: “I think it is perfectly reasonable to say the stories are both true and non-historical.”
    It is not reasonable when the original writers we’re insistent that what they wrote was historical. If it is not historical then they are liars.
    The New Testament writers presented parables. But there is a great deal of difference between the parables and the narratives or between the parables and the letters. It makes it very clear that they knew the difference the same as we do. An older elementary school child can easily discern the difference. You are trying to blur the difference in order to maintain a lie.
    More than that, Luke uses several technical terms for the writing of a history in the prologue to his gospel to assure Theophilus that what he has been taught about Jesus is certain historical fact. Once again Paul maintains in 1 Cor. 15 that the resurrection is based on the testimony of the apostles (including himself) and over 500 others and that if it isn’t literally true our faith is useless. (I can’t comprehend how you can read that and it just doesn’t phase you at all.) Beyond that, there is continuous emphasis on eyewitness testimony not only in the writings of these two men but also in the writings of Peter and John. (You don’t have eyewitness testimony to a parable.) And Peter assures us that what he is writing about Jesus is no myth (2 Peter 1).
    The problem isn’t that the Scriptures are unambiguous. The problem is that you have bought into a bag of lies about whether the Bible is reliable as a testimony to these basic historical facts about the life of Christ. And you have further bought into a lie about how to reconcile that idea with belief. And now you want everyone to join hands with you in that lie….or at least agree that this is an acceptable way to talk about faith in Christ. It is not.
    The root of this problem is that you are not even talking about the same god. You are talking about a god who was created by existentialists like Tillich and Bultmann–who is impotent to act in this world in any effective way or even to have a real personal relationship with people…..if he even really exists, which for existentialists is not important because they think it is really all about them and their ability to find meaning and to make decisions and to act. But this is not the case. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)
    The Bible really means what it says. And it is not unreasonable. You only think it is unreasonable because first of all you don’t really know what it says (as shown by your statement about a flat earth, etc.) and more importantly because your real faith lies in your commitment to a naturalistic worldview.

  • Brad Cooper

    BTW, I think this conversation is going nowhere, so I’m out of here now. I only hope that at some time in your life this all comes to make sense to you.
    You can’t have a marriage just because your in love with the idea of marriage. You must have a real spouse to be married to. There must be a real proposal, a real wedding, real friendship, and real intimacy. That’s what Christianity is all about: relationship….relationship with God through Jesus Christ and relationship with each other flowing from our relationship with God. Christianity is not about ideas or ethical visions. It’s about a real relationship. And a real relationship demands historical reality.
    That’s my final thoughts for this thread. Peace

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad (#92),
    I’m sorry you don’t want to engage in conversation with the goal of mutual understanding. I think we could have made progress if we stayed out of the labeling and name calling. It is a shame that people on both sides of the modern bible wars won’t lower their guard long enough to realize there is common ground and hope for a way to emerge beyond those modern hang-ups. I had to emerge from that viewpoint myself and struggle with those tendencies every day.
    I think there is hope, because many people are moving past those old arguments and stereotypes. Many of us want more than another century of fighting about which doctrine is right and which pats of the story are historical.
    you said to me: “The problem is that you have bought into a bag of lies about whether the Bible is reliable as a testimony to these basic historical facts about the life of Christ…
    The Bible really means what it says. And it is not unreasonable. You only think it is unreasonable because first of all you don’t really know what it says

    I’m sorry that you’ve chosen to ignore what I’ve said and then misrepresent my views. I never said the bible is unreliable or unreasonable. It is the most reliable witness that we have to the life and message of Jesus. Once we understand it’s context, it is very reasonable. I’m sad that you’ve worked so hard to make me fit a stereotype. I’m sure your arguments would be easier if I did.
    The measure of our faith should not be the degree of difficulty in the things we are willing to believe. We don’t get extra faith points for believing hard to believe things. Christian faith (in Greek – “pistos”) is about fidelity and trust in a the path of Jesus not about certainty in any one dogma or superstition. This is, as you noted, what it means to be Christian. It is about a relationship with something that is beyond the realm of the physical universe. There is a difference between the terms “real” and “physical”. I think that is where we get sidetracked.
    You say that “relationship demands historical reality”, but what we have to guide us is a very powerful story. I think relationship demands a story. Actually, it calls us to be part of the story.
    Peace

  • Brad Cooper

    OK….One final, final thought. ;)
    There’s a part of me that believes that there is a part of you that really wants to believe that these things really did happen but you’re afraid that you just can’t defend your beliefs against the attacks of naturalists so you are fleeing to what you see as a refuge in existentialism.
    Whatever the case, I know that God knows your heart and he is always working to draw you into that relationship with him. I will be praying for you. And I mean that sincerely. In love.

  • http://www.faithprogression.com Progressive Faith

    Brad,
    I DO believe these things really happened! But, they are told to us THROUGH A SET OF ANCIENT STORIES. That is our situation. We follow a historical figure, Jesus, and take place in a pathway that is told to us through several mythical narratives NOT a modern text book. When I say the stories are non-historical, that doesn’t mean the people, places, and events are not in any way physical historical people, places and events. It simply means that the authors were not trying to articulate the details of history in the same manner that modern people would write it. Instead, they were trying to point out how important those people had become to them many decades later. The most common method to capture and preserve important figures was through Midrash (allegorical stories about real historical figures that tie these people to their own religious history and tradition). Heck, we still do that very often today by capturing important people and events in poety, music and art.
    I’m not some kind of existentialist! Where do you get that? I also have no desire to defend my “beliefs”. I want to participate in Jesus’ way of life. It is sad that many people are turned off from Jesus because fundamentalists are telling them the only way to take part in Jesus’ message is to first adopt the ancient worldview of his narrators.

  • Brad Cooper

    Progressive,
    I am not going to respond to your last two comments (concerning the issue of the historical reality of the resurrection). I’ll let you have the last word.
    As I’ve said, I think it’s time for the conversation to end. I think we have both frustrated each other enough at this point. But I don’t see that as all bad. As I often say: When “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17), sparks fly and things heat up. I think that a vigorous argument over important issues can be good for the mind and the spirit. (That’s not to say that I can’t learn how to ask better questions, listen more closely and communicate more clearly….maybe even more gracefully. I’m still learning…..)
    Even though we have both been talking past each other at points, I think we both have also heard each other. I think God has been using both of us to teach the other. I know I have learned some things about you and what you believe and I’ve learned some things about me. I hope you feel the same.
    I don’t know that we will ever agree on these important issues, but I pray that Jesus will be guiding us both along our journey to know him and love him and serve him.
    And once again, thanks for the conversation.


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