Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ten Reasons Christianity Does Not Make Sense? Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts dealing with Ten Reasons Christianity Makes No Sense. I only covered two points, and we’ll just have to see how many I get through today!

3. Jesus didn’t take away my sins.

If Jesus did take away sins, then there’s no longer such a thing as sin. If that’s true, then I don’t have to believe, and I should be saved automatically. So what’s the point?

This trades on a very particular interpretation of what it means for Jesus’ death to “take away” sins. Specifically, this assumes that Jesus’ death is both a necessary and sufficient condition for the salvation of individuals. A necessary condition of some event is a condition that must obtain in order for the event to obtain. A sufficient condition of some event is a condition that, if it obtains, results in the event. Obviously not every sufficient condition for an event is necessary for an event, and not every necessary condition is sufficient for an event. This applies because Christ’s atoning sacrifice is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for an individual’s salvation.[1] Without Christ’s death, people cannot be saved; but another necessary condition is that they place their faith in Christ. Together, we say these are jointly necessary and sufficient conditions for an individual’s salvation. In any case, this answers why someone may still be punished for their sins: if they do not appropriate the forgiveness of sins for themselves!

4. Jesus wasn’t a very nice guy.

Jesus demanded that his disciples abandon their families, and he was a narcissist. This is in contradiction to honoring one’s father and mother, and is a really awful thing to do.

This is another in a long list of evidences that New Atheists often have no idea of the cultural setting or the message of Jesus Christ. In point of fact, Jesus scolded the Pharisees for violating the Fifth Commandment (that’s the one about father and mother, for those atheists out there who did not know). But interestingly, the only times Jesus did discuss something very much like this, it was in the context of being willing to follow the Messiah. The idea of including each person’s response to the Messiah was to show that people were not really willing, after all. Consider the man who said, “Let me bury me father first, and then I’ll follow you.” Modern interpreters who are unfamiliar with the setting simply assume this means the man’s father had died, and they were going to bury the body. That would be untrue. Instead, he was wanting to stay with his father until his father became older and eventually passed away; an indeterminate amount of time. The point was not to emphasize that you shouldn’t take care of your family. The point was to expose their hearts on the issue. It’s also worth noting that the disciples did not abandon their families; they were in the house of Peter’s mother-in-law on at least one recorded occasion, and, to be honest, we have relatively little actually recorded for three years’ worth. It wouldn’t surprise me much at all if they went fishing (oh look! The Bible says they did) and used the proceeds, in part, to feed and take care of their families.

5. Jesus’ dad was really not a nice guy.

God basically said as long as you were one of his people, do whatever you want, including rape, slavery, and genocide. Also, Jesus was his own father, which is incoherent.

This is relatively easy, but only if you’ve been exposed to the scholarly material. Thus, this kind of accusation serves as evidence that the person simply isn’t widely read enough. I’ll take the points in no particular order. First, Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? is an excellent treatment on why, very plausibly, the “wipe them out” language is Ancient Near East hyperbole, akin to our sports language of “The Bulls slaughtered the Spurs;” no one should think that the team from Chicago brutally murdered the team from San Antonio; that would be a misuse of the language. Also, ANE customs tell us that likely these towns were military outposts, not even containing women and children. Second, “slavery” is inappropriate as it relates to what actually happened. It’s more like debt-servitude of a live-in butler, as opposed to the 19th century Southern United States. And while the Old Testament laws can be explained individually, it’s worth just mentioning one relevant one: the one where a rapist is said to need to marry a woman. Why? Because in ANE culture, women were often more valued as virgins; a raped woman (besides possibly ending up with a child) would be less likely to be married off. A rapist, then, would be forced to provide for her, and she would have no obligations to him of any kind. So, when we think of marriage as this love-relationship where she has to cook and clean and have sexual relations with her rapist, we’re just anachronistically looking at the ANE culture. Finally, no orthodox Christian formulation of the Trinity claims Jesus is his Father. Either the author knows this and is being disingenuous or does not know this and literally doesn’t have a clue of what perhaps the most important doctrine in all Christian theology actually claims. Either way is bad.

Stay tuned for the next one!

[1] This is speaking philosophically, not theologically.

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