No! Not … the comfy chair!

By this point, I’ve come to expect the Spanish Inquisition.

This is how things work in the evangelical subculture, where stridency is rewarded with prominence. You invite suspicion, inquisition and spontaneous catechism whenever you quote anything from the Bible that’s outside the usual limited parameters — such as anything it says in hundreds and hundreds of passages about wealth and possessions and the poor. You can expect the same thing whenever you question any of those things that everybody seems to know the Bible says even if it never actually says them.

There’s a very strange if … then logic at work behind this steady stream of questions and questioners. The idea seems to be that if you believe that Jesus said to feed the hungry, then you must not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Or if you believe that the origin stories of the early chapters of Genesis were not written as journalistic accounts (“Dateline: Eden”) and thus should not be read as such, then you must not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, vindicated by God and victorious once and for all over sin and death.

Very, very strange logic, that. I do not see how the supposition follows, but I am no longer surprised to see the supposition made. (It’s being made again, right now, as the next wave of inquisitors parses the words “for all” in the paragraph above. I shall be hearing from them shortly, I’m sure.)

Ultimately, I suppose, the logic of this illogic is the idea that any Christian who is not precisely and exactly the kind of Christian that one’s particular megapastor or favored author or radio host demands all Christians to be isn’t really a Christian at all, just a “liberal” impostor claiming the name to lead the unwary astray. For most of my inquisitors, it seems, the world is filled with such impostors. And that makes the world a very scary place.

I remember being taught what it meant to live in such a frightening, perilous world. It was not pleasant.

Responding directly to my catechists rarely gets at the root of their fears, but every once in a while I try to respond anyway, so let me do that again here with the latest “Gotcha!” inquisition from comments.

INQUISITOR: “So what happened to the physical body [of] Rabbi Yeshua bar Joseph after he was executed as an insurgent in the year 33 CE?”

MY ANSWER: I highly doubt that Jesus was executed in the year we call 33 CE.

Pin-pointing the date of Jesus’ birth is a tricky business due to the general difficulty of dating most first-century events precisely and due to the thin and not quite harmonious clues in the Gospels. Not to mention the complications that arise simply from the fact that no one living in 33 CE thought of themselves as living in “33 CE.”

I had a brilliant astronomy professor in college whose best guess, based on the sort of thing that would have gotten the attention of the magi as the “star” of Bethlehem, was that Jesus was born in what we would call 6 BCE. As he was much smarter than I and had given the matter much more thought than I likely ever will, I’m prepared to go along with that guess on this bit of adiaphora.

Now, see, what happens next is my inquisitors note that if I can’t accept the clear biblical teaching about the date of Jesus’ death, then I obviously don’t respect the infallible authority of the scriptures, and therefore, they assume, I’m John Shelby Spong.

(They haven’t actually read anything by Spong, but they’ve been assured that he is eeeevil. I haven’t read anything by Spong either, so I really can’t say.)

The arithmetic is straightforward and simple: If I do not believe what the Bible says about the date of Jesus’ death, then I must not believe that Christ is risen or that Christ is Lord. If I don’t accept the simple, straightforward fact of what the Bible teaches about the dates of Jesus’ birth and death, then I must not really be a Christian at all — just one of those liberal impostors your pastor warned you about.

Funny thing, though: the Bible doesn’t actually say what year Jesus was born or what year he died. Any guess as to those dates is nothing more than that — a guess.

And this, in a nutshell, is the dynamic of the never-ending evangelical inquisition. People who insist that the Bible says what it never actually says attack anyone who refuses to pretend that it does, accusing those people of not taking the Bible seriously because they refuse to substitute fantasies, fabrications and far-fetched extrapolations for the actual thing itself.

Hence again that constantly repeated exchange: “About 4.5 billion years.” “You Spong you!”

The inquisitors are ever-eager to exclude, condemn, ostracize or categorize away anyone who refuses to play along with the idea that “the Bible clearly teaches” things it does not clearly teach or things it clearly does not teach. That is not the right way to go about being right. Mainly because it’s wrong.

Young-earth creationism? Not in the Bible.

Premillennial dispensationalism? Not in the Bible.

Idolatry? That’s in the Bible, quite a bit of it, actually, but it’s not what the Bible teaches.

Gandhi is damned to eternal conscious torture? Not in the Bible.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and chauvinism of every kind? See “Idolatry” above.

Light travels at roughly 186,000 miles per second? Not in the Bible — but still true!

That last one I’ve included as an example of a whole other category of statements that prompts more catechizing by evangelical inquisitors who have been taught to be suspicious of any truth from any source other than the Bible. (“You keep claiming that Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota,” they say, “where in the Bible do you find support for this claim? Sola scriptura!“) That’s a related, but separate, confusion that I will have to try to address separately in a separate post.

Now I realize that the main substance of my most recent inquisitor’s question wasn’t primarily concerned with the precise date of Jesus’ death. The main substance of his question was an attempt to catechize me on what happened to Jesus after his crucifixion. My answer will not satisfy him, because it is an answer only to his spoken question and not to his unspoken fears. But let me tell you what I believe happened.

I believe Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a grave that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.

And then, on the first day of the week, he rose again.

Mary saw him. A bunch of us did. Scores of us.

And so we know that Jesus, who was descended from David according to the flesh, was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace. So Christ Jesus died, yes, and was raised, and is at the right hand of God and indeed intercedes for us so that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is what I believe happened to Jesus after his execution. And that, by the way, is actually in the Bible. Although I suppose it doesn’t really count, since it’s from Paul and, you know, Paul was one of those sentimental, liberal, unbiblical impostors who failed to stand with Team Hell.

Anyway, that’s the short version of my answer. For a longer version, I’d recommend N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. It’s a massive book — luminous, but not light reading. But then when one is tackling the subject of the most important thing that ever happened, one shouldn’t expect a quick and breezy read. (I should confess I haven’t finished it yet myself, so let me reserve the right to revise or amend this recommendation if Wright takes some unexpected, bizarre turn near the end of the book.)

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  • Let’s see if I can head this particular digression off before it even starts:

    I believe Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a grave that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.

    And then, on the first day of the week, he rose again.

    Mary saw him. A bunch of us did. Scores of us.

    And so we know that Jesus … was declared to be Son of God …

    Fred is not trying to convince anyone else that this is true. He is not attempting to convert us to Christianity. He does not consider the above train of logic to constitute valid evidence in a court of law, nor is it a legitimate basis for an apologetic argument.

    He is saying what he believes, as a Christian, and is positing that this is the focus, and indeed the point, of the Bible, and that this is the most relevant part of said Bible for the Christian faith.

  • Well said, Fred.

  • Reverend Ref

    You know . . . I’ve been following Slack/Fred for years and comment much less than I probably should; but it’s posts like this that make me wonder why Fred isn’t an Episcopalian.

  • Anonymous

    And so we know that Jesus, who was descended from David according to the flesh, was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace. So Christ Jesus died, yes, and was raised, and is at the right hand of God and indeed intercedes for us so that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Amen bro

  • Anonymous

    Well Fred that is exactly what I believe

    The only thing IMHO worth believing in

  • Lizzy L

    I believe this too.

    I also believe that light travels (roughly) at 186,000 m/p/s.

  • dc-agape

    I don’t comment here much, but I would like to say two things. Thank you Fred for being the “correct” type of Christian! But I do find one of your logic statements to be similar to the argument you made in the post. The concept that Jesus is the son of David is not proved in the Bible. He has no genetic contribution from Joseph. Yet the only proof that David is his forefather is in the opening of Matthew/Luke. The assumption that Mary is also from the same lineage is not taught in the Bible, humans have added that to the original document.
    Paul assumes this concept and but only mentions it once in the first chapter of Romans.

  • Anonymous

    Aye, and amen, and well said indeed.

  • Sisuile

    Jewish life in this period is matrilineal and patriarchal. From what we can tell, the legal geneology is patrilineal, because only men could legally inherit and the religious and ethnic identity is matrilineal. So Mary is the important genetic contributor in terms of which house, even without the complications of “fathered by God”. Christ could not have been “of the house of David” (who is one of the exceptions, probably because he is such a Big Name) if Mary was not of the house of David. That’s how one traces Jewish-ness, then as now.

  • Bruce

    It seems many people believe in the idea of what “the Bible” means to them far more than they do the actual Bible. (I also believe one can substitute “Constitution” for every instance of “Bible” in that sentence and yield a similarly true statement.)

  • Nice post, Fred. I, for one, do not believe in the resurrection of Christ. But I appreciate your faith and your willingness to share that faith and your musings with me. I find them very thoughtful and well reasoned. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it’s just me, but when I read AndrewSshi’s comment I didn’t hear the voice of a Christian inquisitor, but an atheist one.

    Every once in a while, an atheist commenter will swing by and wonder openly at the existence of a smart, nice, liberal Christian blogger. Such people are obviously morons. But I can sort of sympathize with an atheist’s curiosity about Fred’s opinions of the relevant historical events, because that’s what is going to come up whenever we feel like maybe there’s something to this Christianity thing after all – did all of this Really Happen, or is it just a Nice Story? And more centrally: is this whole “God” concept really real, or is it just a Nice Idea?

    (The person in this video is not me.)
    http://www.youtube.com/user/Evid3nc3#p/c/A0C3C1D163BE880A/10/SbXJC6KsYWs
    “I suddenly faced the possibility that the beauty I saw in the Christian religion and my perception of God was just beauty. Like carefully crafted art… Like a poem, or a story, that was deeply touching – but not true.”

    All that said, it’s obvious that anyone asking Fred this question is, at a minimum, being extremely rude. Liberal Christians like Fred face this question constantly from people who are asking not out of genuine curiosity, but out of a drive to delegitimize, condemn, and expel; to paint him as a subversive deceiver, tempter, and corrupter. We atheists do not this answer so much that it justifies giving liberal Christians even more grief.

  • Richard Hershberger

    I often have this reaction when I read Evangelicals critical of Evangelical culture. They frequently seem to be trying to reinvent traditional mainline Protestantism.

    Another good blog is Internetmonk. The previous owner of the site, the late Michael Spencer, used the term “post-Evangelical” to describe what looked to me an awful lot like pre-Evangelical mainline Protestantism. I commented once to that effect, and he responded in a way that suggested he was very uncomfortable with the idea: a vestige, I suspect, of Evangelical distain of mainline Protestantism (which, after all, was Evangelicalism’s main competition/target for the past few decades). Since he passed away, the site has been run by a group of posters. At least one of them seems to have accepted the logic of the argument and is now Lutheran.

    In Fred’s case, my sense is that he maintains his self-identification as Evangelical partly out of stubborn refusal to give up the name to the Bozo Brigade and partly so as to be in a position to influence the discussion within Evangelicalism. Convert to a mainline church and he would be dismissed as an apostate. Maintain the self-identification as Evangelical and he is harder to dismiss out of hand. This also relates to his explanation of his recent relocation to Patheos.

  • Anonymous

    P.S. The speed of light (in vacuum) is exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. (The meter has been defined as the distance light travels in one second divided by 299,792,458.)

    This pointless diversion brought to you by Wikipedia.

  • Michael P

    It’s all a big “No True Scotsman” argument, isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    If you do not accept the literal truth of everything in the Bible as I have explained it to you, then you are a heretic. Now we must examine you to discover what sort of heretic you are. Do you fit into one of the existing branches of the taxonomy of heresy or have you invented a new way to fall by the wayside? An inquisitor’s work is never done.

  • Anonymous

    “All that said, it’s obvious that anyone asking Fred this question is, at a minimum, being extremely rude.”

    Really? I mean, sure, it’s a question that can be asked rudely – “you don’t really believe that stuff, do you?” – but it seems very natural to be curious about the religious beliefs of people who don’t seem to fit in the categories you’re familiar with. Something like: “Fred, I’ve seen you criticize people for thinking that God intervenes in certain ways in the world today and for thinking that many of the more spectacular things described in the Old Testament actually happened exactly as written and for thinking that Revelation is about something that will happen exactly like that as opposed to being a metaphor. So I’m honestly curious – do you think that God is making stuff happen in the world today in an active way (that is, not just letting the laws of physics do their thing), and do you think that any of the miracles described in the Bible actually happened, more or less, as a result of God acting in the world (the Resurrection, for example)?”

    Perhaps that isn’t sensitive enough yet – maybe the fact that there are people who wield this kind of question as a weapon means that you’ve got to make very clear that that’s not what you’re doing – but I’ve got to believe that you can take the rudeness out of the question so that you can permissibly ask about the religious beliefs of a man who writes a blog about religious beliefs. Maybe the answer is “I’m not comfortable sharing that” and maybe the answer is to point out certain presuppositions in the question, but is it really not kosher for someone motivated by honest curiosity to ask?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe I did go a little too far, but if there is a polite way to ask a question like that, then not only the phrasing but the context has to be right. And the context of the previous thread, remember, was a bunch of fundamentalist assholes trying to delegitimize Team Love’s Christianity. Asking a question most often asked to clobber people with in a thread about clobbering people isn’t a good idea.

  • Anonymous

    And also on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, I highly recommend Resurrection by Rowan Williams, now A of C but then a little-known Bishop of Monmouth, Wales. It’s a short book, just over 100 pages long, but it’s worth reading slowly. Sit down in a comfy chair; its chief weapon isn’t surprise.

    Which reminds me, unlike Fred, I have read John Shelby Spong. Can’t say I’m crazy about him, but it’s been a dozen years since I read him, and while I’ve got a sheaf of notes in a drawer somewhere that explain what the nature of my disagreements with him were, it would probably take me a day I don’t have just to find the notes. I will add that friends I respect tremendously think much more highly of his writing than I do.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Hi Morilore,
    “Every once in a while, an atheist commenter will swing by and wonder openly at the existence of a smart, nice, liberal Christian blogger. Such people are obviously morons.”

    I think that I’m the moron you’re talking about. I think that Fred has come to his faith in Jesus because he understands on some level that what Jesus said is true. He just hasn’t evolved ( sorry about the word) to the point that it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Jesus even existed. For instance, I could prove that Sherlock Holmes was a real person by pointing out that Dr Watson went to 22 Baker St. and found Holmes there, how could that be possible if Holmes wasn’t real?
    Ultimately, it’s not about whether for not the person who says something is real, it’s about whether or not what he says is true.

  • Anonymous

    “I think that Fred has come to his faith in Jesus because he understands on some level that what Jesus said is true. He just hasn’t evolved ( sorry about the word) to the point that it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Jesus even existed.”

    Condescending much?

  • In reply to the earlier idea of “post-Evangelical”, as someone who has left Evangelicalism I don’t really consider myself anything except Christian. There isn’t really a protestant denomination that I find attractive. I strongly dislike the Catholic and Orthodox churches as institutions, though I’m rather attracted to some of their doctrines. For example, the Orthodox flatly reject (and this is going back to Fred’s notion earlier about things that are not in the Bible) the Medieval nonsense of Penal Substitution.

    I suppose that once you come out of what you were raised as you can look back through the whole of Christian history and theology and see things that you like and don’t like; the problem then becomes of finding a group identification that believes anything even remotely near what you do.

  • hapax

    @DC-Agape: “The concept that Jesus is the son of David is not proved in the Bible”

    It’s important to understand that in the context of the times that the Gospel stories emerged, being the “Son of David” isn’t a genetic claim; it’s a political /eschatological claim.

    To simplify RADICALLY, during intertestamental times, when the land of Judaea was conquered by a series of empires, the interpretation grew that the various Biblical guarantees “to David and his House forever” were to be understood as prophetic promises that the Jewish people would be eventually given political independence again, under the sovereignity of a “Son of David.”

    One of the radical innovations of Christianity (and possibly, some other mystical Jewish sects) was the reinterpretaion of these promises as relating to an entirely different sort of sovereignity — possibly apocalyptic, possibly as an alternate social dynamic independent of political power, possibly within the perspective / orientation of each individual, possibly some combination of the above.

    As such, Jesus / Early Christianity’s assertion of his being the “Son of David” is entirely irrelevant to his genetic heritage — indeed, is in fact strengthened by a lack of clear genealogical descent.

    (Rather like Jesus’s statement [probably in the Q source] that God is able to raise from the very stones “sons to Abraham ” — a shocking claim indeed to contemporary Jews who relied on their genealogical claim to the Abrahamic covenant for much of their religious identity)

  • mytwocents

    I understand the sentiment. I think there are a lot of Pastors that keep quiet on some subjects because of the backlash from their members. Churches are not perfect places. Although I don’t agree with Fred on everything he says (I’m not sure that I agree with his entire list of “not in the bible” above), I find myself at odds with certain doctrines taught some places as biblical fact. It takes time to change these mindsets. And as people grow in their faith and biblical understanding, new understanding comes about. Our understanding when we become christians is so limited, that is why we are saved by faith, and not by understanding everything. I’m sure that our brains would explode if we were required by God to know everything to be legitimate christians. So I guess we have to settle for just patience and perserverance for our fellow believers.

  • “I think that I’m the moron you’re talking about. I think that Fred has come to his faith in Jesus because he understands on some level that what Jesus said is true. He just hasn’t evolved ( sorry about the word) to the point that it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Jesus even existed.”

    It’s condenscending because you have no reason to think this, except that you can’t seem to concieve that a person might consider this idea and then reject it. Fred does not believe in the Ressurection because he can’t comprehend the idea of metaphysical truth being independent of historical fact. In fact, much of his interpretation of the Bible is based on that very premise. He has chosen to believe in a literal Ressurection after weighing the arguments; it’s not a failing of his intellect to ‘evolve’ to your level.

  • Erp

    @sisuile

    Christ could not have been “of the house of David” (who is one of the exceptions, probably because he is such a Big Name) if Mary was not of the house of David. That’s how one traces Jewish-ness, then as now.

    Not correct. Being Jewish at some point became matrilineal but one’s house was always patrilineal. One is not a priest or a Levite unless one’s father was a priest or a Levite. One is not of the house of David unless one’s father is of the house of David.

  • I think that I’m the moron you’re talking about.

    Yup.

    I think that Fred has come to his faith in Jesus because he understands on some level that what Jesus said is true. He just hasn’t evolved ( sorry about the word) to the point that it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Jesus even existed. For instance, I could prove that Sherlock Holmes was a real person by pointing out that Dr Watson went to 22 Baker St. and found Holmes there, how could that be possible if Holmes wasn’t real?
    Ultimately, it’s not about whether for not the person who says something is real, it’s about whether or not what he says is true.

    Oh goddamnit.

    Look, everyone, I’m sorry. I tried. I really did. Hell, I even snagged the first post, and avoided all mention of the word “First!” to focus solely on dodging this stupid line of discussion. Maybe if I had tried harder, or if I were simply more skilled, I would not have failed us all.

    So.

    First off, how the fuck do you know whether Fred thinks that Jesus’ message has worth only because Jesus existed?* That was nowhere in this post. I can only conclude that you read blogs the way Lahaye and Jenkins read scripture.

    Second, I think that Fred has made it plenty clear that good and evil are not simply defined by what God says. That’s the point of half his LB dissections: Yes, it is true that L&J are entirely wrong about what the Bible/Jesus says, but it is also true that if God existed and took those actions, then God would be wrong.

    Third, you’re acting like Fred got converted by the “Bible says the Bible’s true” argument. Again, since he has never implied anything of the sort, either you’re being disingenuous, or you’re so small-minded that you simply can’t conceive of any other reason someone would be a Christian. Which is quite an impressive feat, given the number of Christians here who are constantly talking about their faith.

    Fourth, if you were sorry about the word, you wouldn’t have used it. Your stupid parenthetical implies that you were reluctant to use that specific term because you knew it would aggravate people, but you didn’t have another one that conveyed the same meaning.

    I can only conclude that you have no idea why people would get angry at you for saying that. It’s not because we all have residual trauma associated with the word “evolve.” A different word would not have helped. People get angry because the substance of your statement is offensively condescending. Fred is not Christian because he has yet to “evolve” or “progress” or “grow” or “mature” into an atheist; he is Christian because he believes certain things to be metaphysically true of existence. If you want to know why he believes those things, you can ask him, or you can read his many, many writings about religion.

    In any case, we’re not impressed with your grade-school dissection of fallacies in apologetic arguments. You should really catch up to the state of the discussion around here.

    ———-

    * Also, I honestly was not aware that anyone disputed Jesus’ existence. His divinity, sure, but how is his existence in doubt?

  • * Also, I honestly was not aware that anyone disputed Jesus’ existence. His divinity, sure, but how is his existence in doubt?

    Plenty of people don’t believe that Jesus Christ was a historical person who walked the earth, myself included. Go educate yourself on this viewpoint; Google is your friend.

  • > Maybe if I had tried harder, or if I were simply more skilled, I would not have failed us all.

    So, I can’t decide whether this is intended as a sincere apology, or more as an implicit invocation of the site’s readership on your side of the subsequent discussion.

    If it’s the former, it seems uncalled for… it’s not actually your responsibility to suppress lines of discussion you consider unproductive, so the fact that you did not do so does not merit apology.

    If it’s the latter… well, it also seems uncalled for, as it suggests that you’re some kind of community spokesperson articulating our collective will.

    Now, I certainly agree with you that it’s rude (slash-offensive-slash-condescending-slash-etc.) to imply, as Kevin does, that Fred and others are less “evolved” because they consider Jesus’ purported divinity relevant to the value of his purported teachings.

    And I do understand that the community norm here is that such rudeness is dealt with by extended and unfriendly discussion.

    I don’t consider it my place to object to that custom, however unpleasant I may find it personally, so mostly I try to ignore it when that custom is invoked, which it frequently is.

    That said, I personally would prefer not to participate in it, so I would appreciate it if it weren’t invoked on behalf of the community as a whole, as though we were somehow monolithic in the desire to suppress or publicly berate such rudeness.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, would you mind not throwing those of us who don’t agree with you out with the trash? Or at least not doing so out loud? There are quite a few people here who don’t believe as you and Mr. Fred do, and our beliefs aren’t any less valid than yours simply because you don’t share them.

  • Again

    ‘…but it’s posts like this that make me wonder why Fred isn’t an Episcopalian’
    I have been reading for years, and commenting likely far to much, but the main reason is that Fred is a Christian – the intervening centuries and sects and schisms are part of the problem.

  • Guest-Again

    Just more chum in the water –
    ‘The event is being webcast by the American Family Association and last night David Barton got the festivities underway by explaining to the audience that all of our economic and tax policies ought to be dictated by the Bible … and that means getting rid of the minimum wage because it was opposed by Jesus:’
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/barton-jesus-opposed-minimum-wage

    It isn’t really primarily about religion at this point – but religion works just fine to help conceal the class warfare that is at the heart of so much current American ‘fundamentalism’ – the religion of the free market, just like in the Bible.

  • Guest-Again

    ‘Plenty of people don’t believe that Jesus Christ was a historical person who walked the earth, myself included.’
    Which is interesting, in a mild sort of way. Where do you draw the line – Mohammed as sufficiently documented historical personage, the prince later known as Buddha as a likely (or considerably less likely) historical personage, Lao Tzu as an insufficiently documented historical figure, and a certain Arthur as almost certainly mythical? Where would Gilgamesh fit into this, as a historical figure?

    Everyone is entitled to their own perspective on history, of course, but it would seem that such a position regarding a rabble rousing rabbinical figure would logically require a lot of seemingly accepted history to just vanish in lights of inadequacy when looking at the past from today using such a filter.

    For what it is worth, I think any tales concerning these historical, possibly historical, and almost certainly mythical, figures which detail anything supernatural are clearly false – but that someone founded Buddhism, with a name resembling Siddhārtha Gautama, would certainly meet standards my for historical accuracy, much less a figure like Mohammed.

  • Anonymous

    @Guest Again

    Any word on if that includes the law in the Old Testament that says all debt has to be forgiven every 7 years? Doesn’t sound like something most American Republicans would support…

  • Guest-again

    I just can’t quite stop with the idea of historical personage – would Peter count? That is, the Peter that the Catholic Church considers to be its founder? Paul, formerly known as Saul? But at some point on the chain between then and now, history has to become sufficiently accurate to make it ‘true’ – Mohammed most definitely is a historical personage by any commonly accepted definition.

    The filter or process used to say that this or that historical figure actually existed or not would seem to make a major difference in how history is viewed when applied as a principle. Whether or not a single figure named Jesus existed is not really that interesting – but the process used to claim that Jesus was or was not a historical figure would not seem possible to restrict to just one case. (Again, not the supernatural tales – they can all be dismissed as being something which simply have no place in what is considered a historical record, apart from tracing such tales’ later effect on people and societies.)

    Time to get back to work.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t want to throw you out with trash.

    But when you believe in God you have to be a witness and you have to tell other people where you believe in and what the reasons are why you believe.

    and I didn’t want to speak out loud or to insult or attack you: I only wanted people to know where I believe in.

  • Elizabby

    Or if you believe that the origin stories of the early chapters of Genesis were not written as journalistic accounts (“Dateline: Eden”) and thus should not be read as such, then you must not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, vindicated by God and victorious once and for all over sin and death.

    Definitely this. I’m not an American or an Evangelical, so I didn’t know this “rule” until I started roaming around the internet. I was chatting with some lovely Christian ladies on a forum board, when I happened to mention that I wasn’t a Young Earth Creationist and didn’t “believe” in a literal Genesis… then the roof fell in! Suddenly I became “the enemy” and someone to be rigorously questioned, evangelized and pitied as being lost and blind and not a RTC – and told to go read “Answers In Genesis” to learn the error of my ways. Very weird experience. Around here you’d have to go a long day’s drive to find a YEC, As far as I know.

  • Anonymous

    Man I couldn’t finish the webcast but when I went to church today the sermon was also about the cleaning of the temple.
    And I can only think about how mr Barton is whoring out his God and his teachings and rules.
    I can only think about what the bible said about false idols and using your lord’s name in vain

  • You know . . . I’ve been following Slack/Fred for years and comment much less than I probably should; but it’s posts like this that make me wonder why Fred isn’t an Episcopalian.

    Perhaps because he has roots in the Evangelical community and doesn’t want to abandon his people?

    It’s a rather sad comment on the state of Evangelical Christianity that nowadays it seems many of the brightest and best are obliged to evangelise to their brethren rather than with them, but if they reach out and knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend within their own community, it can only benefit everyone.

  • Anonymous

    [Pokes head out in embarrassment]

    Gah, Fred does read all of his comments. Since I made the comment that occasioned this post, I figure it only makes sense to poke my head out and say that I was 100% wrong in my suspicion.

    Not the first time I’ve been wrong on the internet, and probably not going to be the last, either.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t tell others what you believe. What I was commenting on was the “And it’s the only thing worth believing in” part. That isn’t necessary if your aim isn’t to be condescending.

  • Anonymous

    Look everyone has his own opinions and that opinion is his own choice and no opinion is the same like no human is exactly the same.
    So we have all our different opinions and what I wanted to say is that I believe in God because it is my opinion that God is the only thing worth believing in.

    please I don’t want to sound condescending but I REALLY believe that: it is the reason why I am a christian
    because I am not interested in that God makes me rich but because I believe that god IS love.

    And that to him all humans are equal and that he loves them all.

  • Anonymous

    As another quick note, I’m not actually an evangelical (or “fundamentalist asshole,” if you will). I actually hope that Clark and Bell are right about the overall nature of the universe (and fear that some of the more ruthless Reformed theologians of the earlier seventeenth century are right about the nature of the universe). I don’t think the natural sciences are a lie designed to lead humanity astray and generally believe that Fred is right that Biblical commands to love and faithfulness don’t depend on gender.

    The reason that I wondered if Fred believes in the supernatural is that I’ve encountered statements that what matters in Christianity is this world rather than the next in writings like those of Bishop Spong, who argues that Jesus the man rotted in the ground, but that later on Peter realized that he lives in us all. But then, since plenty of Christians who full-throatedly believe in the supernatural also emphasize social justice, I should probably be less twitchy.

    This isn’t the only time that I’ve expressed myself in a way that makes me feel perilously close to being a concern troll. I should probably reel in my desire to be contrarian.

  • Anonymous

    Alrighty. You’re missing the point, so I’m just going to leave it alone.

  • Anonymous

    why?

  • This isn’t the only time that I’ve expressed myself in a way that makes me feel perilously close to being a concern troll. I should probably reel in my desire to be contrarian.

    You asked a question, and you got an answer to that question. To me that sounds like the purpose of the internet, or at least one of its purposes.

    You might be interested in this post about the etiquette of asking.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but my fear is degenerating into the theologically conservative version of Scott the Libertarian, which is why I’ve tried to avoid wading too deeply into the comments on Fred’s posts on l’affaire Bell so far.

  • I may be an atheist, but I definitely want to start shouting “Sola scriptura!” whenever anyone asserts a fact as an axiom. “Kat is over at Matt’s apartment.” “Sola scriptura!”

  • agia

    The reference to religious people as automatically less intelligent always baffles me. Like, I may think that Pascal’s Wager is the dumbest thing I ever heard of, but I would admit that Pascal is about 1000 times smarter than me in every other respect.

    also i was very much amused at the atheist blog post linked above which exhorts people to study evolutionary psychology while neglecting other scientific fields of equal importance, such as phrenology.

  • cyllan

    I don’t know about Baby_Raptor, but I hesitate to venture into such a conversation (on why you’re being condescending and a jerk) because we’ve been down this road before. It leads to a really wearying conversation that goes like this:

    True Believer: I’m not being condescending or a jerk; I just think you are completely wrong.
    Other Person: My life experiences have pointed me in this direction: X, Y, Z
    TB: Well, that’s fine, but I think you’re missing out on the actual Truth. I’m sure if you’d considered it more, you’d see that I’m right.
    OP: I have considered things. I have prayed/thought/experienced my life, and your Truth is not Mine.
    TB: But my truth is a universal truth; can’t you see that I’m right?
    OP: Raaaaaaaaar!

    So, let’s just pretend we’ve had this already and move along.