Tom Gilson

Ideological Hijacking Indeed

From James Emery White:

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an article for the New York Times titled, “Religion and Sex Quiz.” Based on a new book by Jennifer Wright Knust from Boston University, the point was to demonstrate how “murky and inconsistent and prone to being hijacked by ideologues” the Bible can be.

What Kristof demonstrated was exactly the last portion of that: the Bible prone to being hijacked by ideologues. It’s not, however, because it’s “murky” or “inconsistent.” It’s because there are ideologues who don’t want it to be true, yet recognize how potent it is—so they must hijack it.

White’s analysis is very good.

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42 thoughts on “Ideological Hijacking Indeed

  1. Could it be that parts of the Bible (Canonized at the Council of Nicaea) are themselves the product of idealogues working against other groups of people? Jews believe that Christians hijacked their scriptures.

    I am not saying this is what happened, but it seems like there was an awful lot of posturing and politics before the Bible was canonized. One example is his:

    Why do we have four gospels? This is in large part due to the writings Ireneaus, who explains in his book “Contra Heresies”: “it is not possible that there can be either more or fewer than four… as there are four corners of the earth … and the four winds”

    I do not find that kind of logic solid, for example, for decisions of what to include in the Canon. But there it is.

    What would you consider an idealogue, and would you put Marcion of Sinope in that category? I certainly realize he was considered heretical by the Church. However, would you put Ireneaus in this category, too?

  2. No, Gregory, that would be historically inaccurate. It was not an ideological project at all.

    (It’s easy to ask a million questions, isn’t it?)

  3. If you ask me questions, I try to answer them as time permits.

    If you like I will express an opinion instead: saying there should be four gospels because there are “four winds” or “four corners of the earth” betrays not only a faulty knowledge of nature and reality, but also is a really poor criteria for such an important canonization as what many now refer to as “The Infallible Word of God”. It does not give me much confidence in the canonizers.

  4. If you know enough about Church history to know who Ireneaus is, one would think you’d know that the Gospels, like every other book in the New Testament, were chosen due to their Apostolic connection and widespread acceptance by those in the early church, among other criteria. Most, if not all of what was officially canonized at the Council was already widely accepted as Scripture by those in the church far earlier. Further, Christians don’t hold that the canonization of Scripture was a man-lead endeavor. We trust in God’s sovereign providence.

    Not as fun as a conspiracy theory, but history, and the truth, usually isn’t.

  5. Gregory, you say, if we ask you questions you try to answer them as time permits. But I’ve gone through and made an informal list of the questions and/or issues you’ve brought up in the last three days on three different threads here. All of these call for some kind of response. Some of them I have copied and pasted from your comments, whereas others I have just quickly summarized. Here it is (I’ll save my observations on the list for my next comment):

    It is a nice thing to talk about theoretical concepts like “grounding”, but once again how is it useful for reasoning about the actual behavior of humans?
    how does all this theory about grounding morality etc. actually have any effect on people’s actual actions?
    What happened with the Catholic Church in France (a few hundred years ago)?
    What was the Holy Spirit doing in their hearts?
    what are the claims of Christians about the grounding of “absolute morality”?
    A whole series of questions here (the list continues through all the lines beginning with the dialogue identifier “Me”):
    Me: What do you mean by “Believe in Jesus?” and “accept Jesus”

    Me: Okay. So I just have to believe that this happened and I won’t go to hell?

    Me: How is accepting Jesus different from believing he died from my sins?

    Me: Okay so it sounds like it’s all up to God. What exactly do I have to do?

    Person A: When Jesus enters your heart and he is your Lord, you will want to turn away from sin.

    Me: What is sin?

    Me: Is homosexuality a sin?

    Me: Is eating pork a sin?

    Me: But isn’t the homosexuality thing also from the same law?

    Me: It seems a little bit arbitrary. I can bring verses the other way. How do you know the correct interpretation of all these verses?

    Me: How do you know the Church is right?

    Me: What about the sabbath day? God says several times that those Jews who work on it or even light a fire, should be put to death. It is also in the 10 commandments. Since you are in Jesus, are you trying to never light a fire on the Sabbath day (the 7th day)?

    Me: But homosexuality is a sin?

    Me: Okay and murder is a sin?

    Me: Okay, so why did Catholics murder protestants?

    Me: But you said “When Jesus enters your heart and he is your Lord, you will want to turn away from sin.” And you said that murder is definitely sin. Maybe it isn’t a sin?

    Me: But in various times, the Christian Church has sanctioned inquisitions, torture of those who wouldn’t recant or convert to Christianity, and so on… do you believe that it did this?

    Me: But you just said, “God’s Holy spirit dwells within the Church, and tells it the right way to interpret scripture.”

    Me: So, do you believe literally any claims of the Holy Spirit doing work that has actual consequences in this world? Can you stand by any of those claims? The Catholic Church has interpreted scripture and stood by them for hundreds of years.

    Me: So what is the truth? What does the Holy Spirit do? Do you know? Would you have acted the same way the Catholics did if you were in their place hundreds of years ago? Would you have been a real Christian?

    Me: So basically you don’t stand behind any claims that can be tested?

    Me: Convinced of WHAT though? Your version? So do we have the correct truth today?

    Paul misquotes the Psalms out of context

    Where the Christian idea of Hell came from
    The exclusivity of Christ
    What about sin after receiving Christ?
    What about the OT covenants?
    Christianity’s idea of sin is incoherent
    Different kinds of Christians
    Catholics’ beliefs:
    Priests
    Women
    Pictures of God
    Magical events that appear in the Bible
    We need one set of standards
    Did OT people of God go to hell?
    Well, first of all, aren’t you assuming that there is a Creator who speaks and gives directives as to your behavior? And even if there is, how do you know what this Creator has spoken? And more importantly, how can you convince the atheist that this has happened?
    Is there any way for you to convince the atheist that he should become a Christian?
    The nature and formation of the Canon, and the criteria for inclusion
    The possible exclusion of an oral Torah
    Various interpretations of the Bible, and how the doctrine of the Trinity came to be
    What about alternative forms of the “Judeo-Christian ‘system?'”
    Can anyone on this thread come up with a question or statement that would imply that there might be the existence of a soul, without assuming it to begin with?
    Is this a version of the “Argument from Reason”?
    What are the mental operations that are not wholly explicable in material terms?
    And how do we address Churchland’s very fair observation that “we shouldn’t let our own failures of imagination dictate what can or cannot be”?
    Do you guys know of the Chinese Room experiment btw?
    Here are a couple thought experiments to clarify your position. What would you say happens in the following situations:…
    Could it be that parts of the Bible (Canonized at the Council of Nicaea) are themselves the product of idealogues working against other groups of people?
    Why do we have four gospels? This is in large part due to the writings Ireneaus, who explains in his book “Contra Heresies”: “it is not possible that there can be either more or fewer than four… as there are four corners of the earth … and the four winds”

    What would you consider an idealogue, and would you put Marcion of Sinope in that category?

  6. Do you see what I meant now, when I said, “It’s easy to ask a million questions, isn’t it?”
    There are two ways someone like me could interpret this. The first position I’m about to describe is far more common and therefore far more likely on the face of it. But you’ve made statements that incline me to believe the second is also possible.

    1. Some people ask questions this way just because they want to overwhelm and overpower the person they are debating with. Suppose there are good answers to each of these questions (which there are, by the way) and that those answers, by reason of their complexity or the background knowledge that must be supplied, cannot be quickly and easily produced. A person who asked this many questions could say, “Aha! You haven’t answered me! You really don’t have answers, do you?!” When in fact that would be entirely the wrong conclusion to draw. The proper conclusion would be that it’s a lot easier to ask some questions than it is to answer them, and the person who employs that tactic is arguing illegitimately.

    2. Or, you might really want to know the answers to all those questions.

    If you’re in the second position, I implore you now as I have previously, please slow down! You’re calling for the impossible! We have to take it at reasonable human pace.

    If you’ll send me a message with your mailing address I’ll mail you a book that addresses most of this. That will be on me. (You can use the contact form to reach me.) In return I would just ask that you commit to asking one question at a time here.

    For what you’re calling for really does require a book, not a blog, in answer.

    (If you’re actually in the first position, then the more appropriate thing for you to do would be to excuse yourself from these discussions. But I don’t really think that first position describes you quite accurately. Am I right? Or not?)

  7. 1. Some people ask questions this way just because they want to overwhelm and overpower the person they are debating with

    The Chris Hitchens school of debating: fold your arms across your chest, roll your eyes, bob your head toward the ceiling and sneer away.

  8. Charlie says:May 17th, 2011 at 11:32 am
    Hi Greg,
    I wouldn’t worry too much about the skeptics, if I were you. You can spend years of your life playing whack-a-mole with them.

  9. Charlie: heh, I have already answered you on that one. I feel that disproving religious claims (if they are coherent) is like whack a mole. Disprove some fundamentalists / literalists, and other people say “we never believed that.” Start trying to discuss in detail about something else, and someone else comes along with their own “well how is that relevant? That’s not MY view…” etc.

    My example dialogue (many of the questions Tom quotes came from there) was meant to illustrate exactly what I come up against. It’s not fair to include those questions in the list, as they are part of one comment where I indicate how my questions are typically answered and why things seem as they seem to me from my point of view. I am just illustrating my point of view. That is not to say I don’t find all those questions to be interesting, but I feel that some of them have been answered and I have summarized the mainstream answer as coming from Person A.

    Tom, it’s not about the questions only. I will try to be very very clear once and for all:

    In the absence of evidence one way or the other, belief is a personal choice. You can believe in Islam. You can believe in Christianity. You can take leaps of faith. Maybe you can even be vague about your beliefs. But once there is strong evidence or arguments against someone’s position or claims, it behooves one to consider those arguments, and they may present problems for continuing to hold that belief.

    What role do questions play in this? Well, it’s impossible to “disprove” something 100%. If I take as an axiom that “The Bible as present in book form today is the self-authenticating Word of God to me, and it is truer than anything including what I would witness in front of me” then yes, no one can disprove me. Anything they bring, I can just say, well, it must be wrong somehow, because it says right here in the Bible…

    So, the “strong arguments against” something usually occur in the form of questions. Why did Socrates ask so many questions? Because the Socratic method was: assume the other person is right. Have them tell YOU what they believe to be the case, and hopefully WHY the believe it is the case. Then, if you think they are wrong, ask them, “well, how do you deal with this?” and “how can you believe that when X happened here, which seems to be contrary to it?”, or “don’t you think your claim X directly contradicts claim Y in some real world situations? How can they both be totally true?”

    It is “reductio ad absurdum”, and it is the method I use most of the time. That is to say, there is no one argument that will make you change your mind. But if you and I come up with a list of things that follow necessarily from critically thinking about YOUR own position, and you find this list to be an ever-growing list of absurdities that you wouldn’t believe (because in other areas of your life, your standards of gullibility / benefit of the doubt don’t stretch that far), then THIS is what causes you to change your mind. It is the only thing that can ever cause rational people to change their mind. You would use the same approach with Atheists, when arguing for Christianity.

    Yes, these are questions. But that is the “nice” and “courteous” way of showing someone they are wrong. You don’t tell them, “you are an idiot” or something. Hey, maybe YOU are wrong and THEY are right, and by answering your question they will show you that your “problem” isn’t really a problem for them at all.

    But asking questions helps both the person asking them to learn about the other’s worldview, as well as the person answering to maybe solve new things they never thought of — or, possibly, realize their position is fallacious and abandon the truth.

    The thing that I am always focused on is, are you using the same standards for falsifying one belief as you do for another? Does it take the same amount of reductio ad absurdum for you to stop believing the Bible is the infallible word of God as it does that the Koran is the infallible word of God? If not, then you should at the very least admit a bias. And if you really are intellectually brave, you might actually change your view. I see Christians holding all kinds of beliefs (“triune God”) as if they are so fundamentally obvious and true. But when I dig deeper, sometimes they are nothing more than a circular reasoning from a dogma that gives itself authority. I used the “triune” as an example. It is perfectly consistent with the Bible to think that God is not triune. And if you say God has many ways to appear, why only 3? Because the Council of Nicaea codified it that way. Well, that is humans. Sure, maybe you believe that God guided the Church to perfectly interpret scripture exactly as we should have (as WLC seems to maintain). Well, then my questions — about how come the Catholic Church interpreted scriptures INCORRECTLY in the times when they authorized torture, executions, etc. of fellow Christians, of Jews, of gays, etc. — become valid. Like I said, it is a bit of a “whack a mole” and each question doesn’t apply to everyone. The questions arise out of a claim. The claims are part of the worldview of the person who is participating in the discussion.

    So what is the problem? If you ask me about MY worldview, you will also be asking questions. I think you already know my main tenets of epistemology. They are very much like Karl Popper’s.

    Tom: How would you like me to continue on the blog from now on?

  10. Charlie: heh, I have already answered you on that one.

    Did you? It seems when it comes to questions and answers you’re always embroiled in controversy. Where was that answer?

    I feel that disproving religious claims (if they are coherent) is like whack a mole.

    And here I thought your purpose was to learn, and to find out how to answer skeptics and the like.
    Interesting.

  11. I admit, sometimes I ask several questions in a row in the same comment. (Not when I am numbering my questions — which is usually to keep track of separate parts of the argument — but when I am expressing a point of view, and then go What about This! What about That!)

    I do it rarely, but I do it like any other person would: to illustrate that

    A) I have thought about the issue, and I think you are wrong in your claim.

    B) But rather than tell you you are wrong, let me back it up. How will I do that? I will say, Assume your claim is correct. What about This? What about That? And this other thing? And there are dozens more where that came from, how about just these 2 or 3!

    This is not meant to overwhelm the discussion partner and try to make them capitulate or exit the discussion (otherwise I would have presented the dozens right away). It is meant to illustrate, “hey, there are a lot of reasons for me to think you are wrong, and let me list just a few of them.” But I do it in question form so as to give the person a chance to answer it from their own worldview, which they would be doing anyway.

    I hope I explained it well. Let me know.

  12. Greg,

    This is disingenuous to say the least:

    Yes, these are questions. But that is the “nice” and “courteous” way of showing someone they are wrong. You don’t tell them, “you are an idiot” or something.

    I could respond to some atheist by listing twenty or thirty or a hundred questions that I think are hard for them to answer. How “kind” and “courteous” would it be, in the first place, for me to flood them that way? And what of the possibility that every one of those questions has a decent answer? I assure you that every question you’ve asked here does. (“Because the Council of Nicaea codified it that way” is–Bzzz–wrong, by the way; as have been many of your drive-by, don’t-give-us-time-to-respond “answers.”) But your style has been to pour on the questions and not let anyone catch a breath and answer. We try, and another mole pops up out of the game asking for a whack. And then another. And another. And another. I’ve demonstrated that clearly enough, especially when you consider that this came after I called on you to please stop using that technique about a week and a half ago.

    How would I like for you to continue on the blog? There is a certain style of relating on a blog that is completely unproductive and frustrating, especially when the person employing that style says that it shows us we are wrong. That’s a Position 1 style, clear as day, and that style is not welcome here. I should think you would consider it something you wouldn’t want to be associated with yourself.

    As a person you are more than welcome here, and if you decide to shift your approach to something more honorable and appropriate than Position 1, please do continue to contribute.

  13. But I do it in question form so as to give the person a chance to answer it from their own worldview, which they would be doing anyway.

    No. You do it in multiple-rapid-fire question form so as to prevent the person from having a chance to give a proper answer from their own worldview.

  14. Edit:

    No. You do it in multiple-rapid-fire question form so as to jam the conversation with so much spray of noise that you effectively prevent the person from having a chance to give a proper answer from their own worldview.

  15. Should I consider it significant that when offered a free book that would answer many of his questions, Greg decided it was more important to write this lengthy comment than to take a quick moment to send me an email responding to the offer?

    It’s pretty hard not to draw an inference there. Maybe he didn’t want to share his physical address. That would be easier to suppose if he had at least said something about it.

  16. I could respond to some atheist by listing twenty or thirty or a hundred questions that I think are hard for them to answer

    If those questions would be answered well in Christianity (some mainstream version of it) that would be great! I would welcome more evidence on the other side of the scale. As I said, I am trying to find out the truth. It is not about “Position 1″ for me. The way I find out better arguments is by bringing up ” I understand, I’ve heard that position, but doesn’t this kind of undermine it?” And then working through it.

    After all there can only be one truth. Either Christianity is right, or Judaism, or Atheism (with respect to Judaism and Christianity) — or another religion like Hinduism. They can’t all be right! My goal is just to figure out which one for myself. That is why I discuss and debate with Christians, Jews and atheists.

    I have told you exactly what my position is, what my approach is, and even what argument I usually use: “reductio ad absurdum.” I welcome Christians trying to undermine and question my current worldview, as it might lead me to refine or improve some of my ideas, or indeed switch over. Maybe once I take care of the problems that keep me from believing Christianity fully (as one poster said, how can one believe something and think it is probably false at the same time) I will become a Christian! I don’t know. All I know is, I am good at the logical thinking part, but I may not be so good at the “writing short posts” part (as you can see, sorry 🙁 ) and I am not so great at the diplomacy part. I easily get sidetracked as various people address questions or comments to me, and I start answering them.

    Tom – I would love the free book. However I think a dialogue is much more valuable, as it can respond to my follow-up comments and questions. But of course, I would be happy to read your book. I am currently reading “Reasonable Faith” by WLC in my attempt to understand why Christians believe what they believe.

  17. Greg,

    Your believability is suffering:

    The way I find out better arguments is by bringing up ” I understand, I’ve heard that position, but doesn’t this kind of undermine it?” And then working through it.

    There is no “working through it” by the approach you take. Same for this:

    However I think a dialogue is much more valuable, as it can respond to my follow-up comments and questions.

    But it can’t respond to your comments and questions. I’ve explained in great detail why it can’t. I don’t see where you’ve even acknowledged the problem (not since ten days ago, that is, the first time you said you’d try to do things differently).

    I easily get sidetracked as various people address questions or comments to me, and I start answering them.

    That’s blame-shifting, my friend.

    It’s not about the length of the posts, it’s about the Position 1 approach you have been mostly evidencing, in spite of what you just said on that. Are you really willing to shift to conducting real dialogue?

    I don’t think you understand what a reductio argument really looks like. It’s not just pointing at something and saying, “Whoa! Get a load of that! How can they do that if they’re Christians!?” It’s not even saying, “If there really is a Holy Spirit at work in Christians’ lives, why did the French Catholics do what they did?” That’s a question, not a reductio argument. Unfortunately you didn’t accept the answers that we gave you repeatedly on that one, but you did keep asking it for a long time.

    I’m glad you’re reading Reasonable Faith. It’s a good one.

  18. Okay, I will do one thing at a time from now on on this blog (if I remember this resolution in the future).

    Tom, I can alleviate one of your concerns. You think there is no “working through it” with my approach. But understand that when I say, “what about this, and what about that” to signify “I have good reasons to think you are wrong”, that doesn’t mean I know the truth. It means I have good reasons to think the person is wrong. Maybe I am misinformed, or maybe there is a way to reconcile my reasons with the person’s position. This is what everyone does, I just simply call a spade a spade. I have reasons to think position X is wrong. This is the ONLY rational thing that makes me think position X is wrong. I honestly want to know how to address it. You can do the same when questioning atheists, Buddhists, or anyone.

  19. Otherwise, if I have no reason to think a position is wrong, why would I debate it at all?

    I think it’s obvious that Christians don’t think all Muslim claims are right. Maybe they think some Muslim claims are incoherent. How would you go about discussing things with Muslims, without pointing out what you think?

  20. om, I can alleviate one of your concerns. You think there is no “working through it” with my approach. But understand that when I say, “what about this, and what about that” to signify “I have good reasons to think you are wrong”, that doesn’t mean I know the truth. It means I have good reasons to think the person is wrong.

    You misunderstood me. There’s no working through it if you bring up three more questions on other topics before we even begin.

  21. Greg,

    So, the “strong arguments against” something usually occur in the form of questions. Why did Socrates ask so many questions? Because the Socratic method was: assume the other person is right. Have them tell YOU what they believe to be the case, and hopefully WHY the believe it is the case.

    Which is exactly what I wanted you to do in reference to why Christians should obey the mosaic laws. You accused me of bashing you and then ignored me.

  22. Melissa: I didn’t ignore you. I just had a lot of people talking to me at once. If you want to continue, let’s continue. I think the last thing I said to you was, what do you find authoritative? I would need to know that before providing you scriptural reasons why Jewish Christians should obey the Mosaic laws. (I personally don’t think all Christians should, only the Jewish ones. I don’t know why Gentile Christians feel like they should obey the Mosaic laws at all. They have the 7 Noahide laws.)

  23. Tom: well, the only way I should legitimately do it is when I illustrate my point with 3 or 4 examples to show that there is a multitude of reasons for me thinking a certain way. I usually phrase them in the form of questions to let the other person respond.

    It is what Christians do, by the way, when I ask “why do you think Jesus is the Messiah”? They give me like 50 verses from the OT. Jews have a simple response: let’s go 1 by 1, and we will show you that you are mistaken. But the Christians are just so overwhelmed with the sheer number of verses that seem to have come true. Same thing, isn’t it?

  24. Charlie says:May 27th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
    Charlie: heh, I have already answered you on that one.

    Did you? It seems when it comes to questions and answers you’re always embroiled in controversy. Where was that answer?

    Did you also already answer me on this one, Greg?

  25. Charlie: I answered you again in this very thread after saying “I have already answered you on that one.” You clearly saw that since you took the first sentence out of it 🙂

  26. Gregory,
    For one so adamant about questions and answers I am asking where your claimed “answer” was. Did it address me? Did it address the question? Was it hidden in some crypt? Where is that answer that you provided “already”?

    After I asked “where is that answer?” where did you answer me and tell me where that answer was?
    I know you have now made your mole-whacking claims, but where were they before this series of questions?

    Regarding your statement: “took the first sentence out of it”.
    That tu quoque comment, of course, contained the word “already”, meaning you had previously answered. It then preceded my follow up – where did you previously answer? It missed the point, of course.

  27. Tom: so let me then address your other concern:

    You misunderstood me. There’s no working through it if you bring up three more questions on other topics before we even begin.

    If someone asks me, “why do you believe X”, and I have many reasons for believing X, can I start listing them in one comment:

    I have a lot of reasons to believe X:
    A happened. What about implication A’?
    B happened, which points to X, how else do you explain implication B’?
    C happened, which shows X was the case, how else do you explain implication C’ ?
    I have another 20 reasons but I think these 3 should be enough.

    I think many people do this. Likewise, if I believe X is false, I present it in a similar way:

    I have a lot of reasons to think X is false:
    A happened. How do you deal with implication A’ if X is true?
    B happened, how can B’ possibly be true if X was true?
    C happened, doesn’t that contradict X directly?
    I have another 20 reasons but I think these 3 should be enough.

    You see what I mean? I agree that maybe this is a little overwhelming and I should present 3 at a time. But don’t I do that in a single comment? You have just collected all my questions from all comments into one list. And half of them were from my “imaginary dialog” meant to illustrate my point of view by a Q&A format.

  28. Charlie: I spent the last 15 minutes trying to track it down. I’m sorry that it’s not so clear, actually. This was back in the original thread Tom posted when I started commenting on this blog 🙂

    You said:
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/05/questions-from-a-reader-the-flood/#comment-26274

    And I responded the same way I do now, that I see the “whack a mole” going on from the religious side:
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/05/questions-from-a-reader-the-flood/#comment-26324

    But I responded to Tom, and didn’t acknowledge your comment, so I can definitely see how you missed it. I had to search for 15 mins to find it!

  29. Tom: I think the one most relevant to my life right now is

    Christianity’s idea of sin is incoherent.

    Maybe we can start a thread on this?

    It is most important to me because it has the most immediate actionable questions I need to answer before doing what I want to do

    My main 3 questions about Christianity are:

    1) What is Christianity (to you) and why do you believe it is true? It is probably best to start a thread nailing down a specific version of Christianity, and discuss why those who believe its claims to be true do so. Jesus says to spread the gospel into all the world, so I think discussing this question is important for Christians and non-believers alike. It also involves a lot of Jewish theology and prophecy, which I think is very relevant to the discussion. My original email to you was all about this.

    2) What is Christianity’s idea of sin? This question is important as it concerns actionable duties of a person, even after accepting Jesus in a prayer. Here, as in other places, we can only take one denominational viewpoint at a time. We could nail down a specific version and analyze what its idea of sin is, what claims does it make about this world and the afterlife, and so forth.

    3) What is the fate of the unsaved? The whole idea of being “saved” seems to me to be couched in different language than that used by Jesus. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven, what it takes to get into it. Jesus emphasized following the law, and keeping away from sin. That is why it is important for us to explore question #2 – what is sin, and is Christianity’s view of it coherent? The main problem I would like to address here is the fate of the unevangelized. Did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon get into the Kingdom of Heaven? How about the prophets? How does one believe Pauline Christianity and believe they got into heaven, without postulating additional “facts not in evidence” — where the evidence is the Bible? I think one Catholic poster told me that there is more to the Word of God than just the Bible. This is quite similar to the oral tradition of the Jews, and has a lot of support from 2nd century writings. I wonder if evangelical and protestant Christians agree with this – and if not, how do they treat the fate of the unevangelized?

  30. @GM

    1) What is the gospel?
    2) What is sin?
    3) What is the fate of the unsaved?

    How about in reverse order…
    3) We don’t know, but we have plenty of instruction to make it clear that it won’t be pretty. But we also have plenty of instruction to make it clear that humans are particularly poor at judging specific cases, and we’d do far better leaving that business to God.

    2) Sin is setting ourselves up as the judge of good and evil — assuming the prerogative of God. All other “common” sins follow from this primal sin.

    1) The gospel, in its most common form (i.e., 1 Corinthians 15:3,4) is that Jesus came, died for our sin, and was raised from the dead. Don’t worry: the disciples didn’t “get it” at first, either. (see for example, Luke 18:31-34; Matt 16:21-23, etc.) They couldn’t see past the “events” to the “Truth.” Jesus needed to take the time to “open the minds” of the disciples to that Truth after his resurrection (Luke 24:45-48). But Jesus had already provided the key to the “Truth” earlier with these words (Luke 9:23,24 – in the context of another prediction of those “events”): “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” The self-denial that Jesus calls for is setting aside the primal desire to choose what is good and what is evil in our own lives (i.e., “sin,” above), and the “taking up the cross and following him” is to acknowledge his right to rule in our lives (among other things).

  31. Greg,

    In your question 3 you ask about the prophets and Moses etc. and whether they get into heaven. What about Noah, Enoch and Abel? They didn’t have the law and they lived before Jesus. What is the answer? Paul says they were all saved by faith. Faith meaning trust in God and what He says He will do.

    I think part of the difficulty you have is that you are confining the cross to a time in history. Yes Jesus was human and temporal therefore the cross was a real temporal event but He is also God. So have a think about what it might mean for God to be on the cross. The work of the cross then reaches every corner of the universe.

    I think the upshot of that is that whatever time and place you live people respond either positively and with humility to God’s purposes or reject them.

  32. Hi Greg,
    Thanks for your search and for coming back with that comment. It is not clear because is not an answer to me, and I didn’t miss it because it is not what you say it is. Not only did you not address me (though you directly said that you had already answered me) or the comment, but, in fact, you made 7 comments between mine and the one you are now calling an answer to me. You made most of these the same day and in response to comment after comment that was subsequent to mine.

    Funny how it is that when you received answers you didn’t like you went on and on about not getting answers. But then you say you provided an answer which you never did. And then you claim a subsequent answer was the already-proffered answer. Then you point to a non-answer.

    That’s what I would call a real double-standard. I’m glad you have no patience for those.

  33. Charlie: you are right, and I shouldn’t have said I “already answered” you. In my mind, it seemed that way because I distinctly remember reading your comment, when I was writing mine. That was back in the original thread. But how is my acknowledgment not fair:

    “But I responded to Tom, and didn’t acknowledge your comment, so I can definitely see how you missed it. I had to search for 15 mins to find it!”

    As I said, I apologize for what was an oversight on my part. It simply seemed to me that I had indeed addressed you, when I wrote the word “already”. In reality, as I said, I responded to Tom and didn’t acknowledge your comment. I hope that clears it up now.

    Greg

  34. Hi Gregory,
    “You’re right”.
    Thanks, those are two words the internet doesn’t see too often.

  35. Charlie: I try to be fair.

    My main goal on this blog and elsewhere (when I debate religion) is to find out more about the truth. I definitely appreciate reasonable people and I will try to be reasonable myself. Sorry if I threw you for a loop.

    Greg

  36. I believe that honest questions deserve honest answers. However, if the questioner is being dishonest and disingenuous does he deserve an answer to his questions? For example, I believe it is dishonest for someone to ask question, receive an answer and then keep asking the same question over and over again because he doesn’t like the answer.

    In my opinion someone who acts like that is betraying ideological bias.

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