It’s Friday, which means it’s time for me to respond to Patience’s question in the Questions That Haunt Christianity series. Patience is a former Christian who has explored other religions and has come across the Gnostic writings of early Christianity in her pursuit for truth. She asks,
Why [are] those gospels are not in any bibles, why no christians read or quote them, and why so conveniently christianity can dispose of alternate explanations within christianity itself; is christianity ultimately just a test of saying the right words, or is christianity ready to admit among its ranks those who do not believe in miracles, virgin births, or resurrections?
Patience, the answer lies right in your question.
This week’s entry in the Questions That Haunt Christianity series comes from Patience, who asks,
Since leaving the faith I have not looked back, and I have done a lot of exploration of atheist/agnostic communities as well as alternative religious communities. In studying Buddhism and some other religions I came back to some references to the Gnostic Gospels, and I want to know why mainstream christianity has not yet dealt with these at all but keeps preaching the Johannine gospel as ultimate truth when it was one interpretation among many at the time (as regards the meaning and significance of the life of Jesus).
So I guess what I’m asking is why those gospels are not in any bibles, why no christians read or quote them, and why so conveniently christianity can dispose of alternate explanations within christianity itself; is christianity ultimately just a test of saying the right words, or is christianity ready to admit among its ranks those who do not believe in miracles, virgin births, or resurrections?
My answer will come on Friday, but I hope that you will attempt to answer her question below. You can submit your own question here.
Today I respond to Bart Mitchell’s inaugural question to the Questions That Haunt Christianity series. Before I proffer my response, let me say that I am both humbled and astounded at the outpouring of responses to Bart’s question. I agree with many of your comments, and if I were a wiser man, I’d probably just copy and paste them here.
I’m also very grateful that Bart himself has been heavily engaged in the conversation. It’s not easy for a non-believer to repeatedly put himself in dialogue with committed believers, so it says a lot about Bart that he has. Now, without further adieu, my response.
Thanks for your question. It’s a tricky one, and I’ll admit that it’s not one I’ve spent much time thinking about. Unlike the Christians that you seem to meet, I did not grow up in a version of Christianity that was preoccupied by the afterlife. Sure, we talked about it, but it really wasn’t the motivating force for our Christian faith.
Of course, I am familiar with Christians who are preoccupied with what happens after you die — they seem to think that their purpose, as one pastor told me, is “to depopulate hell and populate heaven.” I’m not one of those. But the recent spate of books about “after death” experiences shows that it’s not just Christians who wonder what happens when we die.
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