The Dishonest Church (part 1)

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 13, 2009 in Christian Theology,Reviews

When Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus created a media storm, many Christian reviewers said that Ehrman’s motive was to shock Christians by revealing where our New Testament texts come from and how many variants there are.

But if Christians were ignorant of where their Bible comes from, that is the church‘s fault, not Ehrman’s. Every seminary-trained preacher and leader already knows that the Bible was cobbled together from dozens of sources, that the many of its authors are anonymous, that several books are known forgeries (Hebrews, 2 Peter, etc.), that its authors had many theological differences, and so on – but they almost never share this information with their lay audience.

Christian scholar Daniel Wallace, who has debated Ehrman, sees the problem:

The intentional dumbing down of the church for the sake of filling more pews will ultimately lead to defection from Christ. Ehrman is to be thanked for giving us a wake-up call.

Layout 1Christian pastor Jack Good wrote an entire book on the topic: The Dishonest Church. Jack writes:

Christian churches… must bear much of the blame for the misunderstandings of religious faith that are rampant today… when [church professionals] complete their training and begin to lead local churches, these religious leaders hide their newfound breadth and revert to the patterns of their childhood… Thus narrow and immature ideas remain in place… a failure of crippling effects…1

I know exactly what Jack is saying. I was brought up in an evangelical church, and after attending thousands of sermons, hundreds of bible studies, and several theology classes, I had never once heard the most basic facts about the Bible that are known to all Christian scholars. Once I learned these “secrets” (through my own study), I was so disillusioned with my church’s dishonesty that I was willing to put my entire worldview under examination. In the end, I decided I had no good reasons to believe God even existed. But I may never have examined my worldview so thoroughly if the church had told me the truth from the beginning.

And now I write one of the biggest atheism blogs on the internet. Talk about “crippling effects”!

So why did Jack write this book?

I write because I am convinced that an honest approach to faith, far from being an attack on religious tradition, is the only way to preserve that tradition… At its best, faith invites its adherents to be seekers… Faith is at its weakest when it treats dogma as if it were an ancient fortress that must be defended at all costs.2

Of course, not all Christian leaders are dishonest with their laity.

In 1963, Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson sent mild shock waves through the church with his book Honest to God. Robinson challenged his readers to rise above views that described God as a separate being who lives just outside earth and visits the planet on rare and unpredictable occasions. In 1996, Robert W. Funk caused further consternation with his volume, Honest to Jesus. Funk detailed the conflicting pictures of Jesus given in biblical accounts and insisted that… the context of Jesus’ life could clarify his relevance to the present day.

[Religious publications assured] the public that nothing had changed, that these writers were aberrations…

Neither Robinson nor Funk wrote as radicals attempting to undermine Christianity. Their book titles point to a common passion: honesty. They challenged the professionals in the Christian Church to speak clearly to church members about what they know of the divine…3

Next time, I’ll write about the damage done by the dishonest church, as seen by Jack Good.

rickwarren preaching

  1. The Dishonest Church, pages viii-ix. []
  2. Ibid, page 7. []
  3. Ibid, pages 8-9. []

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

John D December 13, 2009 at 6:17 am

This is a huge problem in Catholicism as well (which is the faith group I have long since abandoned). But I think that’s mainly because the Catholic Church places a shield (the clergy) between its congregants and the bible. There’s no such thing as bible study in Catholicism (at least not where I come from).

This is very transparent in the way in which the Jesus story is conveyed through Catholic religious education (either in church or in school). They usually present a strange syncretism of the various gospel accounts, never pointing out the differences or discrepancies between them.

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Jeremy Killian December 13, 2009 at 6:24 am

Hebrews? A forgery? Last I checked, there is no consensus regarding the authorship of Hebrews. Could you clarify what you mean by forgery?

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Bill Maher December 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

In Rick Warren’s defense, I think that The Purpose Driven Life is a fun book to read even if it is not a deep book. Christianity and Atheism both need people like Rick Warren and Sam Harris because sophisticated theology doesn’t get read outside of a few philosophers and historians who can understand the Historic Jesus and the arguments for and against God.

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Jeff H December 13, 2009 at 8:41 am

“Every seminary-trained preacher and leader already knows that the Bible was cobbled together from dozens of sources, that the many of its authors are anonymous, that several books are known forgeries (Hebrews, 2 Peter, etc.), that its authors had many theological differences, and so on…”

I’ve got a question for anyone who knows – does this sort of stuff actually get taught in the evangelical Bible colleges and/or seminaries? I mean, I’m assuming it likely gets taught in the more (intellectually honest) mainline denominations, but somehow with the experiences I’ve had with pastors and church leaders that have gone to Bible college, it doesn’t seem like they’d be any more aware of this than I was. Anyone been to a Baptist/Pentecostal Bible college, for instance, and can tell me if this stuff gets taught? Or do they stick to their literalism and inerrantism?

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ayer December 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

Jeff H: ’ve got a question for anyone who knows – does this sort of stuff actually get taught in the evangelical Bible colleges and/or seminaries?

Yes, Dan Wallace is a professor at an evangelical seminary.

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ayer December 13, 2009 at 9:18 am

The problem with Dan Wallace’s concern is that it is irrelevant to actual Christian faith. Engaging in historical investigations of the Bible, etc., is fine for those who are scholars and/or find that kind of thing interesting. But as Plantinga points out in Ch. 12 of Warranted Christian Belief (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/plantinga/warrant3.toc.html), belief in the divine inspiration of scripture is not warranted by historical investigation, and has never been considered to be so warranted in orthodox Christian theology:

Plantinga: “Now most Christian communities have taught that the warrant enjoyed by this belief is not conferred on it just by way of ordinary historical investigation. For example, the Belgic Confession, one of the most important confessions of the Reformed churches, gives a list (the Protestant list) of the canonical books of the Bible; it then goes on:

And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them—not so much because the church receives them and approves them as such, but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.”

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Evolution SWAT December 13, 2009 at 9:28 am

@Luke

I went to a pretty conservative Christian College in the south. We were taught about the differences between the gospels, so we had to wrestle with them. I would agree that there is some form of dishonesty here, but I think that the central issue might be a personal fear of losing one’s faith. These ministers believe that the omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe gave a nomadic people very specific instructions for carrying out blood sacrifices. They’re not really approaching this problem from a logical point of view like you are. Well, that’s still dishonest I guess …

I also think it is important to take into account the average intelligence of the people who make up a pastor’s congregation. I mean, we’re talking about people who will look you straight in the face and tell you there is no evidence for evolution. Most adults do not really understand fractions well. It’s second nature to people like you and me, but really, they just can’t do any high level thinking. Most of them do not know a second language and no not know very much about other cultures. Most of them do not understand alternative points of view in other areas of their lives. They’ve never done any careful academic research in their whole lives.

I suppose if I were a pastor, I would be very concerned with educating my congregation, and I would not tolerate dogmatism or ignorance. I would be loud tool. Then again, that would probably get me fired by the other pastors who weren’t willing to stand up and be honest.

Ok, I guess I just talked myself into agreeing with you :)

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Evolution SWAT December 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

I also would like to share a little more of my story. I was shocked into questioning my faith like Luke was, but it wasn’t because of the biblical errors and inconsistencies. I was personally shocked by the Church’s dishonest support of Young Earth Creationism. Once I found the truth out, I started trying to discuss the issue with the leaders in my Church and Christian High School, but they remained agnostic and were unwilling to even look into the matter, not even for a few minutes. I was so disgusted by this disregard for facts, especially by such educated Christians that I respected, that I got the courage to really step back and question everything.

That said, I have to be honest and admit that I held on to Creationism and Christianity as long as I could. I suppose that was dishonest in a way. In the end, my natural curiosity to know what was really true wouldn’t let me drop the issue until I had questioned everything.

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John D December 13, 2009 at 9:49 am

ayer: And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them—not so much because the church receives them and approves them as such, but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.

Why does he add “because they prove themselves to be from God”? Could it be because the properly basic belief stuff isn’t quite enough to convince on its own? I’d also like to know how they prove themselves to be from God?

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Robert Gressis December 13, 2009 at 11:16 am

I disagree with your take on Robinson, Luke. I think he was pretty radical. First, he didn’t think God existed. That’s a more radical view for Christians today than it was in the 1960s, but it’s pretty radical. Second, he thought the book of John was the earliest of the four Gospels, which is a view that still has adherents, but isn’t a mainstream view among scholars.

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ayer December 13, 2009 at 11:17 am

John D:
Why does he add “because they prove themselves to be from God”? Could it be because the properly basic belief stuff isn’t quite enough to convince on its own? I’d also like to know how they prove themselves to be from God?  

Plantinga goes on in that chapter to comment on “proves itself”"

Plantinga: “The second is that the book “proves itself” to be from God. Perhaps here the idea is that the believer first comes to think, with respect to many of the specific teachings of that book, that they are, indeed, from God; that is, the Holy Spirit causes her to believe this with respect to many of the teachings of the book. She then infers (with the help of other premises) that the whole book has that same status.”

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John D December 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm

ayer: She then infers (with the help of other premises) that the whole book has that same status.”  

What are the other premises? The canons of scientific and historical evidence?

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jesusfreak574 December 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm

As a Christian, I’m very interested in the claims that Hebrews and 2 Peter are forgeries. Anyone have more information?

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lukeprog December 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Evolution SWAT,

Excellent. Thanks for sharing your story!

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lukeprog December 13, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Gressis,

Those are Jack Good’s words, not mine, but I agree: Robinson was one of the “radical” theologians of the 60s. Do you think he was attempting to undermine Christianity? That’s not the impression I remember from reading Honest to God years ago.

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lukeprog December 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Re: Hebrews and 2 Peter. As far back as we know they have been circulated as if they were written by Hebrew and Peter. But hardly any scholars today think this is true. Just check their Wikipedia pages, for starters: Hebrews, 2 Peter.

Example of deceit: The author claims to be Simon Peter (1:1) and claims to have been present at the transfiguration (1:16-18). Yet we know the book wasn’t written by Peter.

Actually, nearly half the books of the new testament are often considered to be “pseudonymous.”

Again, this is New Testament Criticism 101, but hardly any Christians know about it because the church is hiding it from them.

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Walter December 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm

jesusfreak574: As a Christian, I’m very interested in the claims that Hebrews and 2 Peter are forgeries.Anyone have more information?  

Here you go:
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/authorpeter.html

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Haukur December 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm

lukeprog: As far back as we know they have been circulated as if they were written by Hebrew and Peter.

Haha, love the brainfart here. The well known apostle St Hebrew, who disagreed with St Paul on some points of doctrine. :)

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Lee A. P. December 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm

ayer: The problem with Dan Wallace’s concern is that it is irrelevant to actual Christian faith. Engaging in historical investigations of the Bible, etc., is fine for those who are scholars and/or find that kind of thing interesting. But as Plantinga points out in Ch. 12 of Warranted Christian Belief (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/plantinga/warrant3.toc.html), belief in the divine inspiration of scripture is not warranted by historical investigation, and has never been considered to be so warranted in orthodox Christian theology:Plantinga: “Now most Christian communities have taught that the warrant enjoyed by this belief is not conferred on it just by way of ordinary historical investigation. For example, the Belgic Confession, one of the most important confessions of the Reformed churches, gives a list (the Protestant list) of the canonical books of the Bible; it then goes on:And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them—not so much because the church receives them and approves them as such, but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.”  (Quote)

That Plantinga quote is pure, unadulterated horseshit. Is this a joke?

Why didn’t he just say “We know cuz God tells us so”.

Craig would discard reason for faith no matter what and Plantinga tells us that investigating the Bible for errors is fruitless, that we know its all true and perfect cuz God tells us so and thats that. These are Christianitys champions.

Do you know of any other high level academics who engage in as much buffoonery and mental and semantic gymnastics as these two?

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Ian December 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Luke.

I love this post. Thanks for the book links. I’ve been banging on about this for a long time.

Ayer’s plantinga quote is correct to a great extent, I think. But the issue isn’t whether the doctrine is based on biblical coherence. The issue is the tacit but almost universal lack of basic education of church-goers to the content of the texts they are reading.

I’ve attended many bible studies with folks who’ve been doing bible studies for *decades* without understanding the most basic facts about authorship, how the texts arrived with us, when they were written or how and why they disagree. Some not even understanding the language they were written in or their initial audience. That is simply bad form, particularly because – as Luke says – trained pastors do know this stuff.

A good friend of mine is a pastor. His view is that he *won’t* talk about this stuff in church because of the backlash he’ll get from the more evangelical members of the congregation who will see it as an attack on their faith and a potential sign of his apostasy.

It is a shame, because I think by knowing and understanding more about the New Testament it can equip believers to get a deeper sense of what it says. It doesn’t always lead to atheism in my experience.

Another friend of mine once said “you know you’re on the wrong side of an argument when you think keeping people ignorant is a useful strategy”.

Re: Hebrews and 2 Peter.

The Epistle to the Hebrews isn’t a forgery in any sense. It has traditionally been claimed for Paul, though it makes no such claim itself and wasn’t thought to be by Paul for a long time and by many of the major figures of the early church. It is also not an Epistle and is unlikely to be written to a group of Hebrews :)

2 Peter is pseudonymous. It doesn’t match what could possibly be the theology, education or zeitgeist of the Apostle Peter.

There are many others. Some of Paul’s letters are very unlikely to be by Paul (the Timothys and Titus, for example), others are more debatable (2 Thess and Col, for example).

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Jason Finney December 13, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Talk about horsepoop. Look at this mound of it. I might take you a bit closer to smell your own stench.. apparently you’re too close to it..

Luke wrote: I know exactly what Jack is saying. I was brought up in an evangelical church, and after attending thousands of sermons, hundreds of bible studies, and several theology classes, I had never once heard the most basic facts about the Bible that are known to all Christian scholars. Once I learned these “secrets” (through my own study), I was so disillusioned with my church’s dishonesty that I was willing to put my entire worldview under examination. In the end, I decided I had no good reasons to believe God even existed.

First of all, you DON’T know “EXACTLY what he is saying.” For someone who prides himself on precision, you sure do exaggerate a lot buddy! :P I kid ya Luke.

So, they tricked ya with all those “secrets” huh? They were drinking Rum out of a Sprite can, ay? The nerve.

Big conspiracy against ya, huh mate? All those people at your church–and your own parents–just trying to keep you from being all you can be, right? Those monsters.

All that charity they did, all that goodwill, all that love they shared with people, all that selfless humanity that made the world a better place, all that sacrifice, all those lessons about living an upright life, respecting people and property .. all that stuff…… lies, damn lies. Flippin’ grifters.

Gosh mate you sound like a kid who thought his daddy was an astronaut his whole childhood only to find out later daddy was really a mob boss. Animals.

I feel for ya, friend.

But hey listen, about your website popularity. Let’s clear something up, pal of mine. Your website is popular for the same reason TMZ.com is so popular: because you degrade people, and that’s fashionable. No big deal, but let’s just call it what it is, ay? :)

Listen we both know if you didn’t have all the degrading “Christians-are-lying-thieving-superstitiousin-idiotic-murdering-lying-scum” stuff here, and instead you posted nothing but those boring podcasts between you and crusty old incoherent college professors, no one would come. LOL

One thing about your departure from the church mate. Bear with me. So you say you could find “no good reasons” to stay Christian huh? That’s amazing! What about “love your neighbor as yourself”? Di dthey teach you that one in all those thousands of classes you took? Thousands ay? Doesn’t sound like Christianity to me, sounds like institutionalism. Poor guy! Hey did they teach you stuff like “count others better than yourself”? What about that? Not good enough either?

On a closin note I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the big elephant of hypocrisy stomping around as we trade ideas here. One on hand you say all those people in your old church were liars for withholding TRUTH, but at the same time you turn around and do the same thing here by NEVER discussing all the quality teachings of Christ and citing the superb examples of his teachings in action–when you and I both know you know of thousands of examples of how the teachings of Christ has positively impacted the world, let alone the country, let alone your own town and family. Aren’t you being just as deceptive by withholding those “secrets” from your readers?

In your incessant, obsessive, and largely indignant rants about the Christian RELIGION (cleverly hidden behind a facade of boy scoutish sincerity–known as ‘passive aggressive’ in psychology circles), it seems to me you are consciously OMITTING the teachings of Jesus Christ that changed the world for the better, such as how man should love one another as he loves himself, give selflessly to the least of His brothers, render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and a plethora of other truths that anyone who cared about TRUTH would NEVER deny.

All this leads me to believe you mate don’t really care about truth. I aint being an arse, I’m just saying it like I’m feelin it. Come on and level with me. :) You are as guilty of withholding the TRUTH as your church leaders were–if not more. Seems to me your website is not here to educate people, seems it is more of a shrine you built so you could be worshiped for a change because you are just worshiped out at this point. You OD’d on religion. Am I right?

If I’m wrong, then why don’t you ever criticize the actual TEACHINGS of Jesus Christ? You courteously attack the improbability of his existence, and you blast the lies perpetrated by the billions of people that have followed him for twenty centuries, but you never attack His actual teachings. I mean, you’ll compare them and find contradictions, but you never evaluate them on their own merits.

I think I know why you don’t discuss Jesus’ teachings. Because you know they are true. And there is nothing you can say about them other than, “Yup,” and that would not bode well for the popularity of your web site… which is your only real care. Vanity, it’s the devil’s favorite sin. Figure out why mate, and you can put this rubbish to bed and get back to putting people before yourself again

Cheers and beers!

Jason

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Al Moritz December 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Evolution SWAT:
I was personally shocked by the Church’s dishonest support of Young Earth Creationism. Once I found the truth out, I started trying to discuss the issue with the leaders in my Church and Christian High School, but they remained agnostic and were unwilling to even look into the matter, not even for a few minutes. I was so disgusted by this disregard for facts, especially by such educated Christians that I respected, that I got the courage to really step back and question everything.

Sorry to hear that this was your situation. I might have made the same choice in your position. However, as a Catholic I never had to choose between science and religion. A universe billions of years old and the fact of evolution were never an issue for me. I became a scientist (a biochemist), and have kept my faith without any of the problems you had to wrestle with.

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svenjamin December 13, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Jason,

Luke’s website is popular because he is civil, intellectually honest and maintains a regular high-quality output. The only degrading remarks on here are made by individuals like yourself who write long ostentatious (yet childish)posts that distort every would-be point they attempt to make.

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Robert Gressis December 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Hi Luke,

Sorry for getting you and J. Good confused.

I don’t think Robinson was trying to undermine the church. I think he thought that a study of church history reveals an ever-changing theology, and he thought that the church’s theology hadn’t caught up with the times. I think he thought that if the church had a more modern theology, people could be more fulfilled Christians, which is why he wrote his book.

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mikespeir December 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm

“Cheers and beers!”

I suspect that for Jason it’s been more beers than cheers recently. That was the rant of a drunk.

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Jake de Backer December 13, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Sum.. Sir Jer.. Fuck Fa.. Jason,

Before I proceed systematically to remove each of your claims from the flimsy, tenuous legs upon which they currently rest, I have a favor I was hoping you’d indulge.

The people who frequently comment here are all relatively familiar with each other. And certainly, that includes a number of theist’s, even a pagan or two. Despite our wide-ranging points of contention with one another, we all respect each other’s intellect and right to be bit of a prick every now and again. A right employed often amusingly to some excess by Lee. But I don’t think I’m out of place saying that one thing we all respect equally is our honesty toward one another and our integrity which when upheld culminates in ones credibility. Luke exposed the IP addresses or address, I should say, of about 5 “different” users from a computer in Texas. He was a fraudulent, impudent, petulant little fuck who postured himself in British idiom’s in a contemptuous attempt to appear intelligent. Funny now, how “he” disappears –If I’m not mistaken, around the same period, and I mean within days maybe a week, not months—and you arrive using the same grammar, and even link to the “common sense theism” site this bucket of fuck designated a week or so ago, of course with your sincerest approbation. Coincidental I’m sure, that you now post from an anonymous IP. The reason I tell you this, as being the perpetrator of this nonsense you must surely know, is that, while I don’t think people here will dismiss outright the arguments people with differing views erect, they will however skip right the hell over them when they’re stated from a duplicitous imposter, as you’ve proven to be. Now, to my request: Please abandon the nonsense. Give yourself a name and stick with it. People from Texas don’t use “mate”, “bloody”, “cheers”, and “rubbish” in their colloquial vernacular.

But maybe I’ve mistaken your intent, “Jason”. Perhaps the role you seek for yourself is to be the site-nuisance. The detestable bit of filth left clinging to your shoe after an outdoor metal concert. If such has been your pursuit, consider yourself a success, “mate”.

Now, onto the specifics.
“Big conspiracy against ya, huh mate? All those people at your church–and your own parents–just trying to keep you from being all you can be, right? Those monsters.

All that charity they did, all that goodwill, all that love they shared with people, all that selfless humanity that made the world a better place, all that sacrifice, all those lessons about living an upright life, respecting people and property .. all that stuff…… lies, damn lies. Flippin’ grifters.”

If it’s not readily apparent what’s wrong with this bullshittery, I’ll assist in clearing it up a bit. This is, for all intents and purposes, a “…but what about all the good they did” argument. And it could be applied indiscriminately to everyone from Alexander for pioneering intelligent, however savage, war strategies to Hitler for advancing a lot of 20th century science, including his contribution to the first European economy vehicle, the Volkswagen Beetle. People are not released from their culpability on account of subsequent good they may produce. Incidentally, plenty of atheists, agnostics and irreligious apostates of all stripes have endeavored to contribute in each of the aforementioned ways (encouraging goodwill, sharing love, selflessness, etc.) to people regardless of their beliefs. And I should like to think that Christians who choose to promote these philosophies do so independent of their religious convictions. That is to say, people who engage in helping others on account of their beliefs are not prompted for “selfless” reasons but because of the reward/punish mechanism at the foundation of their beliefs. Only when an irreligious member of society promotes these goods can you be sure that they are not doing so for spiritually perverse reasons.

“Gosh mate you sound like a kid who thought his daddy was an astronaut his whole childhood only to find out later daddy was really a mob boss.”

Yes, I imagine it is very much like that, Jason. Finding out that you entrusted your spiritual wellbeing; your emotional and intellectual growth; your character development and maturity in the hands of willfully dishonest individuals is, to employ your frivolous and demeaning analogy, “like finding out your daddy isn’t an astronaut, but a mob boss.” Is the dismissive analogy here in use supposed to dispel any compassion we may feel for someone so deceived? Should we be enraged by Luke’s characterization, because hey, “what about all the good they’ve done”?

“But hey listen, about your website popularity. Let’s clear something up, pal of mine. Your website is popular for the same reason TMZ.com is so popular: because you degrade people, and that’s fashionable. No big deal, but let’s just call it what it is, ay?”

Degrading people is easy. Watch: You’re a fucking tool. But that’s not what happens here. That’s not ONLY what happens here. Particularly not from Luke, anyway. It takes considerably more than “degrading” people to assemble a respectable following, anyway. You are purposefully misconstruing “degrading” people with “confronting” or even “provoking” them in to evaluating the merits of their beliefs which to a degree, are in deed “superstitiousin [sic] and idiotic”. The main contrast which needs to be distinct in the mind of every reader, and I believe (apart from yours) probably is, is that there is a sizeable aperture separating one from “degrading” someone’s beliefs and the person themselves. Those two are not tantamount.

“…those boring podcasts between you and crusty old incoherent college professors…”

Whatever a podcast may be with Graham Oppy, Evan Fales, Gregory Dawes, it’s not “boring”. Unless of course you’re entirely ignorant to the field of philosophy of religion. An option, given the material you’ve produced, not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
“One thing about your departure from the church mate. Bear with me. So you say you could find “no good reasons” to stay Christian huh? That’s amazing! What about “love your neighbor as yourself”? Di dthey teach you that one in all those thousands of classes you took? Thousands ay? Doesn’t sound like Christianity to me, sounds like institutionalism. Poor guy! Hey did they teach you stuff like “count others better than yourself”? What about that? Not good enough either?”

The fact that a church, sect or denomination endorses certain positive elements of scripture, or that a book itself has lines encouraging such behavior, doesn’t make them or it true, original, good or meritorious of one’s loyalty and patronage. Again, Hitler promoted some good as well. He advocated an increase in education efforts, particularly in sciences and had wonderful things to say in his autobiography about his “brethren”. He was extremely patriotic and reputedly a loving husband. Should we not have given him a chance then, considering all the “good” he was capable of?

“On a closin note I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the big elephant of hypocrisy stomping around as we trade ideas here. One on hand you say all those people in your old church were liars for withholding TRUTH, but at the same time you turn around and do the same thing here by NEVER discussing all the quality teachings of Christ and citing the superb examples of his teachings in action–when you and I both know you know of thousands of examples of how the teachings of Christ has positively impacted the world, let alone the country, let alone your own town and family. Aren’t you being just as deceptive by withholding those “secrets” from your readers?”

I love that a sentence is prefaced with “On a closing [sic] note…” in what is a paragraph at the middle of the post. “I kid ya Jason ::gay smile::”. You charge Luke with hypocrisy for “NEVER discussing all the quality teachings of Christ” because he derides the church for withholding pertinent information concerning his beliefs from him. There is a profound difference here, Jason. The church has an obligation to disclose that information to those who look to them for their spiritual guidance. Luke owes us, nor anyone, no such divulgation. He’s not claiming to be the representative of atheism, the vicar of truth, as it were. The church very much is. All the same, no one denies that some of Christ’s teachings were good. We contend that where it was profound, it was unoriginal and where original, banal. Some of his teaching was downright lunacy, i.e. take no thought for tomorrow, sell everything and give it away, pay more than what you owe, etc. (prescriptions which I notice a conspicuous lack of Christian’s engaged in, by the way). By this ludicrous standard of “hypocrisy”, anyone could charge anyone with it so long as they 1) Point out the dishonesty in a person or institution and 2) Don’t, at the same time, point out any good they may have been responsible for. I could say “You fucking hypocrite. You lambast Luke for being a hypocrite but you purposefully avoid all the good things he’s said about Christianity and religion.”

“In your incessant, obsessive, and largely indignant rants about the Christian RELIGION…you are consciously OMITTING the teachings of Jesus Christ…that anyone who cared about TRUTH would NEVER deny.”

Where, exactly, dude Luke “deny” the “teachings of Jesus Christ”? Whatever the hell that means.

“Seems to me your website is not here to educate people, seems it is more of a shrine you built so you could be worshiped”

As with the last time I wrote one of these posts, sometimes I confessedly have nothing to add to comments of this color. Best just to let them stand alone.

Your last two paragraph’s are a rambling about the teachings of Christ which I feel you inflate to an absurd degree and given Christ’s disconcerting lack of profundity or eloquence, compared to say Confucius, Epicurus, or Aristotle, I don’t think I’m out of place for summarily dismissing you and them.

As an aside, I always felt that if someone with the encyclopedic knowledge of Aristotle claimed to be the son of God, it would be much harder to disprove. He could have made a much stronger case given his state as a renowned polymath. He possessed the caliber of intellect you would suspect as being some thing of divine origin. Compare his work to that of the illiterate peasant. Well you can’t as the carpenter, being illiterate, left us none.

Apologies for the length of this diatribe,
J.

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Jake de Backer December 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm

“Where, exactly, dude Luke “deny” the “teachings of Jesus Christ”? Whatever the hell that means.”

What I, of course, meant:

“Where, exactly, did* Luke…”

J.

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Briang December 13, 2009 at 11:35 pm

My experience is, I think, different. As a Catholic, there seems to be an openness to the historical critical method. The major Catholic Bible, the New American Bible, has plenty of footnotes based on historical-critical assumptions. My wife and I were recently reading a book by Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope) where he said that the Creation story came from the Babylonian exile.

Yet for a number of years I was hostile to the historical-critical method. I think this was at least in part due to protestant influences. I know that there are other Catholics who dislike the historical critical methods, however, these also seem to be the ones who focus on debating protestants (fundamentalists / evangelicals mostly).

More recently I’ve come to appreciated that there is a lot to be learned from the critical approach and it isn’t all negative to Christianity. For example, that Jesus was known to raise the dead, is supported by four sources: Mark, L, John, and a Q saying of Jesus. The Q saying is supported historically by the criteria of embarrassment.

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Beelzebub December 13, 2009 at 11:55 pm

What Jake de Backer said. Jason, we know you’re not English, Irish, Australian or anyone else who speaks English with any more of an accent than a Texas drawl. And you’re not a visiting student in Amsterdam — though you may be in Paris (Texas). So come off it Mate! Blimey.

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lukeprog December 14, 2009 at 12:29 am

Briang,

Yeah, this post is probably not as relevant to European Catholicism as many other forms of Christianity, in particular American Christianities.

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John D December 14, 2009 at 2:29 am

Jake de Backer: Apologies for the length of this diatribe,
J.  

You are absolved.

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John D December 14, 2009 at 2:33 am

lukeprog: this post is probably not as relevant to European Catholicism

My experience of lay European Catholicism is that the Bible is not discussed. Most people aren’t aware of the differences between gospel accounts, and they certainly have no great affinity with the historical origins of the gospels.

Catholic intellectuals are probably quite comfortable with the historical-critical method, but that simply does not filter down to most ordinary members of the church.

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Briang December 14, 2009 at 4:33 am

lukeprog: Briang,Yeah, this post is probably not as relevant to European Catholicism as many other forms of Christianity, in particular American Christianities.  

I’m actually from the US.

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Reginald Selkirk December 14, 2009 at 7:24 am

RE the relatively enlightened state of the Holy Roman Catholic Church:

I was also raised Catholic, and can recall my teachers stressing that the church had no argument against evolution, although I cannot recall anything more exciting in 9th grade biology class than memorizing the parts of a plant. However, I don’t think its accurate to say there is no conflict at all between Catholicism and science.

Consider the believe in transsubstantiation, for example. This requires an acceptance of dualism; that the “essence” of the bread and wine literally (but not materially) transform into Jesus’ flesh and blood. I should think anyone with a knowledge of chemistry should have at least some difficulty accepting that the “essence” of bread is not carbohydrates, and the “essence” of wine is not H2O and ethanol, with some plant and yeast-derived impurities.

As for evolution, the current pope seems to be riding the fence a bit. Cardinal Schoenborn, a close pal of the pope, rather publicly fell in with the Intelligent Design cause, and in 2006 Benedict himself made comments about the creation of the universe as an intelligent project which were perceived as fence-riding, an attempt to appease the more conservative members of the church (i.e. the Schoenborn wing). I like to think that if God granted me a gift of infallibility, I wouldn’t be hedging my bets so much.

Then there were the comments about Galileo made by Joseph Ratzinger in his pre-pope days, 1990:

P. Feyerabend … He writes: “The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Gaileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.”

From the point of view of the concrete consequences of the turning point Galileo represents, however, C.F. Von Weizsacker takes another step forward, when he identifies a “very direct path” that leads from Galileo to the atomic bomb.

Note here Ratzinger’s cowardly habit of expressing his own views through the quotations of others, in order to preserve a measure of deniability. Another episode of that behaviour occurred a few years ago when the Pope made some inflammatory remarks about muslims.

Other activities and pronouncements by Pope Benedict reveal that he has a wish to return the church to its glory days of medieval times. Witness the reinstitution of the practice of granting indulgences.

Current issues in which Catholic doctrine are not entirely in confluence with scientific thought include opposition to birth control, abortion and stem cell research, and the shameful record of the church on HIV in Africa. In 2007, Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, head of the Catholic church in Mozambique, claimed that condoms sent to Africa from Europe were pre-infected with HIV. Note only was this claim unevidenced, it is contrary to medical knowledge concerning how long the virus can survive outside the body. If the archbishop was ever corrected or disciplined for this remark by the Vatican, I never heard about it.

The Catholic practice of vetting miracles in support of beatification and canonization does nothing to enhance the science-compatibility of the church. Notably, very few such miracles involve the curing of amputees.

The Holy Roman Catholic Church is a very big tent, and that tent includes some very sophisticated theologians. It also contains vast numbers of unsophisticated peasants who perceive and venerate images of Jesus and Mary in tortillas, fence posts, stained underpasses, etc.

So if you want to claim that the Holy Roman Catholic Church is not as thoroughly into science denial as the Young Earth Creationist evangelicals, well alright, but that is a rather weak claim.

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drj December 14, 2009 at 7:31 am

Reginald Selkirk: From the point of view of the concrete consequences of the turning point Galileo represents, however, C.F. Von Weizsacker takes another step forward, when he identifies a “very direct path” that leads from Galileo to the atomic bomb.

WOW!

My drink just came out my nose after reading this! And I thought the alleged path from Darwin to Hitler was ridiculous…

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Al Moritz December 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

Reginald Selkirk: Consider the believe in transsubstantiation, for example. This requires an acceptance of dualism; that the “essence” of the bread and wine literally (but not materially) transform into Jesus’ flesh and blood. I should think anyone with a knowledge of chemistry should have at least some difficulty accepting that the “essence” of bread is not carbohydrates, and the “essence” of wine is not H2O and ethanol, with some plant and yeast-derived impurities.

I am a chemist and I know these things, but a bit of study of metaphysics (Aristotle, Aquinas) helps on this issue.

Current issues in which Catholic doctrine are not entirely in confluence with scientific thought include opposition to birth control, abortion and stem cell research,

These issues have nothing to do with science, but with ethics. Please do not confuse categories. As far as stem cell research goes, the Church is very much in favor of adult stem cell research. And while we are at science anyway: it is a scientific fact that so far adult stem cells show much more palpable promise in medical applications than embryonic stem cells.

The Catholic practice of vetting miracles in support of beatification and canonization does nothing to enhance the science-compatibility of the church. Notably, very few such miracles involve the curing of amputees.

Science studies the laws of nature. The scientific method depends on the reproducibility of experiments and observations. Miracles with physical manifestations, if they occur, are one-time events that suspend the laws of nature. Since they are one-time and not reproducible events they fall outside what science can investigate, particularly if they do not leave permanent traces that might be accessible to scientific investigation. For example, a miracle healing does not leave researchable traces about a process from disease to health, since the healed person simply is at once healthy and thus indistinguishable from a person that was never sick to begin with. Science can say nothing about such a situation, except that there is no scientific explanation for the healing. Thus, the issue of miracles simply lies outside science. This is completely different from it being ‘unscientific’. Unscientific means holding opinions that are disproven by science. While some alleged miracles have been disproven by science indeed, others have not – and phenomena that are considered true miracles by many believers generally are not disproven by science. In extension, belief in miracles simply touches questions outside science, rather than being ‘unscientific’.

Please do not confuse the methodological naturalism of science with metaphysical naturalism.

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Reginald Selkirk December 14, 2009 at 8:34 am

Al Moritz: These issues have nothing to do with science, but with ethics.

If you are saying that Catholic positions on ethics have nothing to do with science, then so much the worse for the Catholic church. Ethical decisions should take into account all relevant scientific knowledge. The Catholic doctrine on abortion, for example, is based on a claim of the time of “ensoulment” which has no foundation in science (I like what Monty Python has to say on that point). The Catholic doctrine on non-abortive birth control, as laid out by Pope Paul VI, is just plain dumb.

the Church is very much in favor of adult stem cell research. And while we are at science anyway: it is a scientific fact that so far adult stem cells show much more palpable promise in medical applications than embryonic stem cells.

“Promise”? No. Actual results to date? Yes. That is probably because it is also a fact that research on embryonic stem cells was greatly curtailed for religious and political reasons during the previous 8 years.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 9:03 am

Reginald Selkirk: The Catholic doctrine on abortion, for example, is based on a claim of the time of “ensoulment” which has no foundation in science

How could the time of “ensoulment” ever be tested scientifically? Just because something “has no foundation in science” does not mean it is not true, because science cannot address all questions.

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Reginald Selkirk December 14, 2009 at 9:08 am

Al Moritz: Science studies the laws of nature. The scientific method depends on the reproducibility of experiments and observations. Miracles with physical manifestations, if they occur, are one-time events that suspend the laws of nature. Since they are one-time and not reproducible events they fall outside what science can investigate, particularly if they do not leave permanent traces that might be accessible to scientific investigation. For example, a miracle healing does not leave researchable traces about a process from disease to health, since the healed person simply is at once healthy and thus indistinguishable from a person that was never sick to begin with. Science can say nothing about such a situation, except that there is no scientific explanation for the healing. Thus, the issue of miracles simply lies outside science. This is completely different from it being ‘unscientific’. Unscientific means holding opinions that are disproven by science. While some alleged miracles have been disproven by science indeed, others have not – and phenomena that are considered true miracles by many believers generally are not disproven by science. In extension, belief in miracles simply touches questions outside science, rather than being ‘unscientific’.

I have to question whether you even clicked through my link. Some of the “miracles” officially endorsed by the Holy Roman Catholic Church do not meet reasonable standards of “suspension of the laws of nature.” The specific example I linked was one of the miracles for Mother Teresa. A woman who underwent conventional medical treatment for cancer claimed that her cure was miraculous. Her doctors did not agree. her husband did not agree. And yet, the church was apparently so eager to put its stamp of approval on the sainthood of Mother Teresa that this woman’s word alone was considered evidence enough. Shame on you for pretending to answer me when you sidestepped the question entirely.

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Reginald Selkirk December 14, 2009 at 9:14 am

Reginald Selkirk: The Catholic doctrine on abortion, for example, is based on a claim of the time of “ensoulment” which has no foundation in science

ayer:
How could the time of “ensoulment” ever be tested scientifically?Just because something “has no foundation in science” does not mean it is not true, because science cannot address all questions.  

Do you think you are disagreeing with me? Did you fail to understand my statement that ensoulment has no foundation in science?

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Al Moritz December 14, 2009 at 9:17 am

Reginald Selkirk:
I have to question whether you even clicked through my link. Some of the “miracles” officially endorsed by the Holy Roman Catholic Church do not meet reasonable standards of “suspension of the laws of nature.” The specific example I linked was one of the miracles for Mother Teresa. A woman who underwent conventional medical treatment for cancer claimed that her cure was miraculous. Her doctors did not agree. her husband did not agree. And yet, the church was apparently so eager to put its stamp of approval on the sainthood of Mother Teresa that this woman’s word alone was considered evidence enough. Shame on you for pretending to answer me when you sidestepped the question entirely.  

No, I didn’t click on the link, because you did not make it clear that this was an essential part of your argument. So your statement: “Shame on you for pretending to answer me when you sidestepped the question entirely”, is a bit disproportional to my “offense”.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 10:16 am

Reginald Selkirk: Do you think you are disagreeing with me? Did you fail to understand my statement that ensoulment has no foundation in science?

Ok, please describe the ethical implications of the fact that it has no foundation in science.

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Reginald Selkirk December 14, 2009 at 1:47 pm

ayer:
Ok, please describe the ethical implications of the fact that it has no foundation in science.  

Well, there’s the attempting to impose through legislation one’s ethical views which are not founded on any factual or rational basis.

But the implications are more than ethical, there are also theological reverberations. I’m sure you’ve heard the line that God is the most prolific abortionist of all time. Since abortion is a whole ‘nother can of worms, let’s not pursue that in depth here.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Reginald Selkirk:
Well, there’s the attempting to impose through legislation one’s ethical views which are not founded on any factual or rational basis.But the implications are more than ethical, there are also theological reverberations. I’m sure you’ve heard the line that God is the most prolific abortionist of all time. Since abortion is a whole ‘nother can of worms, let’s not pursue that in depth here.  

An ethical view and the policy implications of that ethical view are two different things.

As to God as the abortionist (i.e., because of the high miscarriage rate) that’s just another example of the problem of suffering and doesn’t make that philosophical issue either more or less difficult.

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jesusfreak574 December 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I think this is humorous. The best sources for the Hebrews/2 Peter being known forgeries and written by other authors are Wikipedia pages and an atheist apologetics site? (In particular, the 2 Peter page on Wikipedia cites more people arguing for an early date for 2 Peter and for its authorship by Peter than those opposed.) Please, forgive the egregious offenses of any Christian leader who isn’t teaching this obvious material to everyone he meets! ;)

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John December 17, 2009 at 4:53 am

I agree with jeremy here.

Jeremy Killian: Hebrews? A forgery?Last I checked, there is no consensus regarding the authorship of Hebrews.Could you clarify what you mean by forgery?  

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Laura December 20, 2009 at 7:38 pm

The first time I ever heard of problems of authorship, I was a college student at a Christian college. I was a youth intern, and one night, the youth pastor and I were talking. He said he didn’t know how to handle teaching the kids the truth about the Bible without crushing their growing faith. “How do I tell these kids that Peter didn’t write Peter?!” He exclaimed. I was so shocked myself, that I didn’t know what to think!

The problems are there. But Wikipedia and atheist sites are often the only ones willing to talk about it. You can find books and you can learn about it in your classes (I did), but most mainstream Christians who know about it either bury it in an effort to keep their own faith or in an attempt to not rock the faith of their congregations. Ask your pastor about it. Don’t ask him what he thinks, just ask if there is a debate. (My guess as to what he will say? “Well, yes, but [insert something about how they don't know what they're talking about].” The point is that these issues are found primarily in college textbooks and not your average Christian site.

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