Friday, June 1, 2012

Debunking Christianity: Are the Differences Between the Christianities Insignificant?

Ever seen a silly argument that no matter how many times it has been refuted or who did it, the argument is never abandoned? The argument is that the differences in beliefs regarding God, gods, Heaven, Hell, Salvation, Bible, prayer, miracles, and many other subjects is so varied among those who call themselves Christians that there is no consistent message so it should be totally rejected. There are people who have actually bought in to this lie. John Loftus and Russ are too examples of  people who teach people to believe this is true. In this article, Russ attempts to prove it true. Fails, yes, but tries anyway.

Here at John Loftus' blog Debunking Christianity it's been emphasized many times by blog post authors and commenters alike that there exists no such thing as a Christianity, there being instead many Christianities. In fact there are so many Christianities with so many differences between them that the word "Christian" is useless, even for the purposes of rough outline, as a guide to what someone self-identifying as Christian thinks or believes about their own religion. This includes what they believe about gods, heaven, hell, the Bible, prayer, and miracles. In response Christians have maintained that of course there is variation in belief among the various Christian groups, but the differences are insignificant, subtle alternative interpretations. In this post I'm going to share with you an essay from Harry T. Cook which demonstrates that the differences between those calling themselves Christian are anything but insignificant.

The counter argument is not that there are not significant differences among those who call themselves Christians. AGREE!!! The disagreement comes from the question: Why is merely claiming to be a "Christian" enough to be counted as a Christian without looking at what the person believes? At the very least, the Bible should be the standard by which to judge if a person is a Christian or not.  Some might argue that the Bible is not a consistent standard but I reject that and one who would make such a charge would have to show how  mainstream Christian doctrine that is contradicted by a group who is not mainstream are both supported by the Bible. For example how does the Bible simultaneously teach that Jesus is the Archangel Michael (the Jehovah Witnesses) and that He is higher than all the Angels? Like that will ever happen.

The blurb from his website says:
Harry T. Cook is an Episcopal priest, journalist, author and peace-and-justice activist. His area of research is biblical studies, especially 1st Century Greek texts.

He is a noted preacher and public lecturer, and his writings are published in books, newspapers and other journals. Each week, he publishes a topical essay. To receive these by e-mail, add your name to the mailing list below.

Nothing in that to distinguish Harry from any run-of-the-mill Christian cleric, but use the essay to judge for yourself whether Harry effectively distances himself from the Christian clerical herd. As you take in Harry's words ask yourself how any Christian can be honest and still claim that the differences between Christian groups are insignificant.

I want to know how anyone can honestly reject the authority of Scripture and still claim to be a Christian? You shouldn't, at least with a straight face.  It's only been in the past few years but the Episcopalian Church has in several ways distanced itself from being Christian in the historical sense. This is a real bad example and it gets worse.

Atheism in America
By Harry T. Cook 5/4/12

Recently a United Methodist minister in Florida named Teresa MacBain "came out," as it was said, confessing she had discovered over time that she is, after all, an atheist. The audience before which she bared the soul she probably doesn't believe in was on its feet in a hot second, roaring in lusty cheers at her evident emancipation.

How can someone consistently self-identify as a Christian minister and simultaneously as an Atheist? Isn't the like being a married single person or a little pregnant? Yup, a logical contradiction.

I can think of nothing more effective than working in a congregation to turn a clergy person into an atheist -- or simply to drink. You're lucky if the atheism does it first.

You can't be born-again and have a real relationship with a living being and then through the problems of dealing with others come to the conclusion that the living being isn't really living. It's like having a crppy and thankless job and then concluding that your wife does not exist because your life wouldn't be so hard if she existed. I don't think that works especially according to scriptures in the New Testament I wouldn't expect anything Oh yeah, but they reject the authority of the Bible so no help there.

It depends on whether one is consulting a dictionary or a lexicon in determining what exactly being an "atheist" means. The dictionary, tracking usage, will tell you that an "atheist" is one who denies the existence of any deity. The lexicon says merely that an "atheist" is an "a-theist," i.e. "not a theist." There's a big difference.

Good point. There is a major difference. 

I should very much like to know whether MacBain is a dictionary atheist or a lexicon a-theist, or if she even has that worked out yet.

 Few people bother to make such careful distinctions especially when you don't really know what you believe.

I publish not only these essays on Fridays but also a weekly exegetical (look it up) analysis of biblical passages that will be heard in many churches on the following Sunday. The series is intended for working clergy who may not have the time, resources or inclination to conduct the research necessary to make adequately intelligent comment upon the bible readings. Mirabile dictu, non-clergy readers outnumber the clergy on the subscription list.

My point in telling you this is that I hear from many of the clergy who read my weekly publication. They express thanks for my non-ideological analyses and for allowing the passage in question speak for itself without trying to torture it into conformity with a catechetical precept. These clergy are a-theists in that they have found it impossible finally to credit the church's official theistic formularies.

If one  comes to the conclusion that the Bible is not foundational to thought and practice, how do you even think to call yourself a Christian? Why would anyone still consider you a Christian. 

A number of clergy readers who have done the research and the thinking for many years have come to see that the church's insistence on a seriously outmoded theism is a sure path to intellectual bankruptcy.

"Theism" is that philosophy of religion that posits the existence of a living deity, however unavailable to sensory apprehension, which is supposed to be responsible for the creation of the universe and of all that is proper to it. This deity is said by theists not only to be open to communication with human beings but desiring, even demanding, of it. Prayer is the medium through which such communication is to be effected.

You mean because that's what the Bible reveals to us?  Because He Loves us. Yup! 

Through prayer, the theist believes that he can bargain with the imagined deity to alter natural outcomes, providing such prayer is sufficiently intense and sincere. He believes that "God answers prayer." That is the point at which some intellectually honest clergy, in whose company I am presuming MacBain to be, just have to stop and think.

Yes, let us stop and think. Where does the Bible tells us that the outcome  and purpose of prayer is to get God do what we want. Now this is truly an imagined deity and not the God of the Bible.

Such clergy wrestle with biblical texts and the ideas that flow from them and sooner or often later awaken to the absurdity of it all. They realize that they are not theists. Some of them evidently decide the only alternative is to embrace dictionary atheism that they seem to take as utter and purposeful denial of the existence of the god on which their particular religion or denomination has based its creed.

No one should be a dictionary "theist" but a Biblical believer. 

I do not know if MacBain is at that point. My guess is that, rather than a dictionary atheist, she is a lexicon a-theist -- more properly an agnostic. She clearly came at one point to see that theism is dead. It does not compute in and therefore cannot compete with a world now understood in light of the observations of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Freud and Einstein.

Oops.  How do Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Freud and Einstein have anything to do with showing how the Bible is false? It does not.

I wish MacBain had not joined forces with the professional atheists who are as blockheaded as those who persist in the advocacy and practice of theism. Like her, I preached to Methodists for a brief time many years ago, and whether or not they knew it, they were not on the receiving end of theistic doctrine. They were listening to an agnostic speaking, one who did not insist on the revealed truth of the impossible-to-know.

I don't think that Harry Cook understands what Biblical theism is and is not. An agnostic denies the revealed knowledge of scripture every bit as much as the atheist because he/she denies that the Bible does reveal truth.

Much later, after the appearance of my first book, Christianity Beyond Creeds, I was confronted by a member of my congregation thus: "So, you don't believe God exists?" My answer was, "No. I don't know enough to believe such a thing." His rejoinder: "Then you believe there is a god?" My comeback: "I don't know enough to say that there is or that there isn't. So I concentrate on what I know and continue to push out the boundaries of my ignorance into knowledge and from there, when possible, to belief."

Translation: No, he is not a Christian. 

That, of course, makes me a dictionary agnostic: "One who is not committed to the existence or the non-existence of God or a god." (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., p. 23, column 2). The word "agnostic" in its non-religious, lexicon state means merely "one who acknowledges not knowing."

 Translation: Agnostics are not Christians.

Agnosticism should only enter the bloodstream of every institutional religion, beginning with Roman Catholicism whose corporate leaders falsely and egregiously claim to possess the revelation of all relevant truth -- especially about human sexuality and reproduction freedom. Agnosticism should only cool the fevered minds of Islamic jihadists and ultra-Orthodox Jews and of homophobic Anglicans and other Protestants bent on either conversion or damnation of gay and lesbian persons.

Without Jesus, everyone is damned to Hell. Therefore the point of being a Christian is not conversion or damnation. That is out of our hands and in God's instead. We are just supposed to obey him. And the Bible tells us what that looks like.

Teresa MacBain has taken a good first step. Now one hopes she will not substitute doctrinaire dictionary atheism for doctrinaire Methodism, whatever that might be. There's stuff we just don't know -- or at least not yet.

Agnostically yours,

Harry Cook

© Copyright 2012, Harry T. Cook. All rights reserved. This article may not be used or reproduced without proper credit.
Can a Christian be honest while saying the differences between the Christianities are insignificant?

Russ Rogers

Can an Atheist be honest and admit that people who deny the Bible as the authority in defining "Christianity"? Judging from Debunking Christianity it doesn't seem like it. The Bible doesn't say that we know everything.  There is a lot we do not know. But there are things that have been revealed. For example, the Bible tells us how God reconciled us to Himself! That is the point: How do you put aside the enmity your sin put between you and God? You don't.  God does that through Jesus Christ.

Debunking Christianity: Are the Differences Between the Christianities Insignificant?

1 comment:

  1. Ah yes, the ol' Christians are mindless sheep who all believe the same things except when they are all so very divided into denominations which believe in very different things.