Church and ministry leadership resources to better equip, train and provide ideas for today's church and ministry leaders, like you.
Get updates from Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath delivered straight to your inbox
Friday’s Non Sequitur.
When I turn on the television, it’s amazing how many Christian programs are saying that Jesus is just about to return. Eventually, fart into the future, the fact that Jesus is never coming back will spell the end of Christianity.
Not all Christian belief systems depend on an apocalyptic return of Jesus. Besides, at 2000 years, we’re already pretty far into the future.
The vast majority of Christians believe Jesus will return.
I also think that if there was a loving, caring, personal God who watched over us and had a plan for our life, there wouldn’t be three year old children in cancer wards. That’s not love. Bart Ehrman is correct that the problem of suffering poses a massive problem for any believer who is willing to be honest with herself.
Certainly there is a large group of Christians who believe in an apocalyptic return, but the number of Christians who don’t harbor such an expectation is much larger than you think. I grew up with such a group (conservative and evangelical though they were). A failed return does not “spell the end” for their Christianity.
I agree that the problem of evil is a difficult conundrum for Christians, and, given that centuries of theology have been devoted to it, they are aware as well. I agree with you that the problem of evil is not answered well by free will theologies and other attempts. But Christianity shifts and changes with the culture over time. Today’s Christianity would have been unrecognizable to Christians a millennia ago. Already, there is a large contingency of liberal Christians, who aren’t concerned with literal miracles and resurrections. There are even some who are not so committed to the concept of God, as they are to the principles of love, compassion, and mercy – and I have no problem with those principles.
I have a feeling that Christianity will survive for a long time to come; but it will change and evolve along with human culture.
One last point. Evolution falsifies Christianity. How can you reconcile the Abba, the loving Father of the New Testament with the reality of the voracious wasteful process of natural selection? If there was no Fall then what need for Redemption? If no first Adam what need for the second? Paul’s entire argument in Romans completely falls apart. Death didn’t come because of sin; death was inherent in the process from the beginning. No wonder fundamentalists reject evolution. They understand that accepting it undermines everything. So-called Christian “liberals” accept evolution because they can’t deny the evidence and they regard the process of evolution as the way God created life. But they haven’t thought it through. A god who used evolution to create life would not be the loving Abba but an unspeakable monster. Look at how evolution by natural selection actually works.
I’m not the one you need to convince, of course. But even i am aware that your argument doesn’t really address liberal Christianity. You’ve only told them that their God cannot be a loving father, but only an “unspeakable monster”. I think that a liberal Christian would respond by saying that’s only a valid criticism if I thought the ground of all being was a person or an animal. i don’t.
Master Jesus is living in Rome, in a plush apartment not far from the Coliseum, which he shares with Maitreya, a pothead. Master Jesus looks a bit like Mel Gibson though when I asked if he was a Holocaust deny-er he asked ‘Who’d like a Campari and soda? I said I only drink cheap vodka. He told me he wanted to meet Beau Quilter and set his fat head straight on one or two ontological matters. I said I never heard of Beau Quilter and I denied thee thrice Beau. Sorry pal.
Feel free to deny me as often as you like – especially if your inquisitor bears any resemblance to Mel Gibson.
Beau, you would be surprised how often I have used your thoughts and writings (passing them off as the fruits of my own reading, of course) in debating with the extreme fundamentalists. On a Patheos debate I mentioned RC Sproul who said that if a man’s own dear mother is in hell, the Christian in heaven will say, ‘She deserves to be there’. I said he did not really believe it himself, that there was some cognitive dissonance going on in his brain, and that fundies inflicted a huge internal psychic damage on themselves. I have greatly benefited from your rational and humanist reading of history. At times you remind me of Gore Vidal, a great essayist, historical novelist of astonishing range, moral wit and dazzling atheist There was one else remotely like him in post-war American literature. He was also a veteran of World War II. I cheered when I read his essays on George W Bush and the so-called war on terror. I bet the Republicans held a party when Gore died. ‘My country has been taken over by a bunch of thugs,’ he said. I should no more have relished going into a religious debate with Mr Vidal than I should with Mr Quilter. I hope you know that when I’m kidding I’m kidding. Go well.
First of all, evolutionary biology is not about the origin of life, nor about the individual. It is not at all clear that creation is about the same subject as evolution.
And one does not have to accept evolution to observe, as diid Tennyson in 1849’s In Memoriam, “Nature, red in tooth and claw”; or “And finding that of fifty seeds/She often brings but one to bear”.
And if one is to bring the charge of “haven’t thought it through”, if there has ever been a case, it has been “Intelligent Design”, with Young Earth Creationism a close contender. ID makes it a virtue of not thinking things through.
As they did in the 1st century, and in 1000 AD, and in 1500 AD etc.
If failed prognosticating were to spell the end of Christianity it would have faded away a long time ago . . . .
As early as 2nd Peter chapter 3 there was a need to explain why the End was so long in coming.