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My most recent posts have hit Evangelical Christianity pretty hard. While I certainly believe that my observations were warranted by the fac...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is the biblical doctrine of salvation absurd/illogical?

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." --John 1:29*

"He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." --John 6:56*

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." --Hebrews 9:22*

*All of the above scriptural quotes are from the King James Version of the Bible.

In a piece that was perfectly timed for Christians to reflect on the meaning(s) behind their observance of Easter/Passover, one of the regular commentators over at the blog Banned by HWA (who goes by the moniker "Retired Prof") penned an article entitled "The Meat of the Gospel:  Salvation by Carnivory." You can read the entire article at this address:  http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-meat-of-gospel-salvation-by.html

In the piece, Retired Prof stated that "the doctrine that a god/man had to die to spare us from horrible punishment for our sins is absurd." R.P. then went on to ask:
"How can anyone claim, much less actually believe, that taking the life of an innocent person could restore the lives of guilty ones? Why would the kind of loving creator Christians believe in devise such a convoluted, irrational 'plan of salvation'?"

Retired Prof then proceeds to make some observations about what he characterizes as the "psychological/emotional sense" that the teaching makes when we consider the realities of the world in which we live. Nevertheless, R.P. concludes:  "I can’t see my way clear to turn loose of my preference for the literal over the symbolic, reason over emotion, flesh over spirit. It is impossible for me to believe sincerely that anything, not even a consecrated wafer and a sip of magic wine that represent the nutritive substance of a guy who died two thousand years ago, could keep me alive forever."

Having enjoyed the usually thoughtful.rational/logical character of most of his comments on this blog, I must say that I was a bit chagrined by the condescending tone he adopted in this piece. Fine, Retired Prof has reached a different conclusion from myself and other Christians about the biblical doctrine of salvation - I don't have a problem with that. But don't go on to characterize those of us who accept the doctrine as "irrational" or as employing "convoluted logic"!

For those of us who accept the biblical doctrine of salvation through the person of Jesus Christ, I believe that the professor himself points to a legitimate rationale for such a belief (the one he dismissed as "psychological" and "emotional").

For me, the logic of the biblical doctrine of salvation is found in our experience of the world around us. Consider the following facts as evidence:
1. The universe (including this planet) is governed by a series of fundamental laws (gravity, motion, thermodynamics, conservation, etc.), and the breaking of those laws always has consequences. For instance, if I walk to the edge of the Grand Canyon and jump off, I am going to fall (which will almost certainly result in my injury and/or death).
2. For scientific study, all of the life on this planet is divided into kingdoms:  Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaebacteria and Eubacteria (there isn't complete agreement within the scientific community about the precise divisions, but what is listed here finds wide acceptance there and is sufficient for our purposes).
3. Every organism which is part of the kingdom Animalia (including humans) is a heterotroph (meaning that they obtain their nourishment from other organisms). It should also be noted that, in most cases, this nourishment requires the death of the other organism, which is very often accomplished by the organism doing the eating. You may think it unfortunate/savage/unfair, but the fact is that another plant, animal, fungi or bacteria almost always has to die to sustain and perpetuate the life of organisms within the kingdom Animalia!
4. All of the members of kingdom Animalia have some means of reproducing themselves or perpetuating the existence of their species. In fact, the perpetuation of life seems to be the main focus and preoccupation of all life on this planet. It should also be noted that this activity (as with all others) requires energy, and that energy is once again obtained from the nourishment those organisms receive by virtue of the death of another.
5. In the natural world, need is preeminent. Plants, animals, fungi, etc. are chosen to serve as food because some other organism needs them to sustain/perpetuate its own life. In other words, the plant, animal, fungi, etc. which is chosen to provide the nourishment for the organism in question can be completely innocent of any faults or mistakes - it may simply have been available.

From the above facts, I think that it is both logical and reasonable for a theist to conclude that:
1. God has established some parameters for what is/isn't acceptable behavior, and for there to be some consequence(s) for violating those parameters.
2. A single person's death could sustain and/or perpetuate the life of another. In fact, the symbolism of the Eucharist could be said to be an almost perfect representation/reflection of what happens on a daily basis in the natural world.
3. The innocence of that person is inferior to the need of the others to sustain/perpetuate their lives.
4. The same God who designed the laws which govern the universe, and the natural world of which we are a part, would devise some means to perpetuate the life which "He" created.

Thus, while the biblical doctrine of salvation may offend the sensibilities of some folks, I find it to be very logical and consistent with the world in which I live. What do you think?


Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm looking for a church to attend!

I'm looking for a church to attend. And, although my requirements are minimal, they are non-negotiable!

Before listing those, however, I feel that it's only fair to inform folks with potential suggestions of some extenuating circumstances. I live in a small village in the midst of a vast sea of corn and soybean fields in Central Illinois (I am, however willing to travel). To further complicate matters, I work most Sundays.

That out of the way, my requirements of any potential church are few. They are as follows:

1. It must be Christian - profess a belief in Jesus Christ as Savior.
2. It must be caring and friendly.
3. The pastor/priest/elder/congregation/etc. can preach and teach whatever they like as long as I'm not required to believe and teach it.
4. I must be free to make up my own mind about how much money I contribute to it.

That's it! Any takers?

Contact me at lc.hendrix@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Language as a problem for Biblical inerrancy

The Bible has been referred to by many as the "Word(s) of God." And the reasoning goes something like this:  If it is the "Word(s) of God," then it must be perfect - without any flaws.

Many of my readers, however, will at once see a major obstacle to the acceptance of this logic:  It may be the "Word(s) of God," but it is wholly composed of human languages. Now, admittedly, we have found language to be a very effective means of communicating with each other - of conveying ideas, concepts, feelings and their meanings to each other. But could anyone make a reasonably sound argument that human language is perfectly efficient in doing the things which it was designed to do?

Let us consider for just a moment the basic building blocks of language. If we Google the term language, we find that it is defined as "the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way." Now we could talk at some length about the formation of alphabets, and the dramatic differences which are apparent among the symbols used for the various languages of the world; but I think that it would be more productive to focus on the words which those symbols are used to form.

Once again, if we Google the term word, we find that it is defined as "a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing..." And who, we ask, is attaching a meaning to that element? Obvious answer:  we (humans) do. And think for just a moment about just how imprecise that exercise can be!

Within the confines of a single language, we have multiple dictionaries available to us (usually presenting a multiplicity of possible meanings for the object of our query). In fact, for the word word, Merriam-Webster enumerates eleven possible meanings (and that's not taking into account how some of those are further parsed into variations of similar meanings)! In other words, we can (and do) bring some very different meanings to the same word.

As an example:  For those of us who speak/write English, the word chair would conjure up a similar meaning for all of us; but it would not be exactly the same for you and me. An image of a recliner might come to your mind, while I am busy thinking about a wooden folding chair.

We also have available to us other words which can say the same thing (or something very similar. We call these synonyms. For example, when we Google the term word, the following synonyms are listed:  term, name, expression, designation, locution, vocable... And we haven't even addressed the subject of whether we are using the word in question as a noun, verb or some other part of speech!

Can we begin to see just how complex language is? Can we appreciate the different perspectives and shades of meaning which each and every one of us can (and do) bring to this exercise?

What about when we begin to string words together? As an example, let us consider the English "Merry Christmas" and the Spanish "Feliz Navidad." We could say that both are meant to convey, "I hope that you have an enjoyable celebration of the anniversary of Christ's birth." However, a literal break down of the English words would reveal "Merry Christ Mass;" and a literal translation of the Spanish words would reveal "Happy Nativity!"

In the study of the Bible, we must always remember that the original texts were composed using mostly Hebrew, Aramaic, Babylonian and Greek words. In fact, regular students of Scripture will often employ a concordance to help them get the full range of a particular word's meaning. Likewise, most students of the Bible understand that the particular arrangement of words in the original language can have a profound impact on the meaning of some passage.

Hence, we can see that it is ridiculous to suggest that language can be perfectly efficient in conveying what I'm thinking to you. In the end, we all have our individual filters which inform our interpretations of the messages which we receive. Thus, it is the thesis of this post that the very nature of language makes Biblical inerrancy impossible!