The QuasiChristian

Critical Thinking and Spiritual Reasoning

Death: Judeo-Christian View

In Judaism and Christianity death is an enemy and is related to sin. It is the outgrowth of human rebellion. Because of Adam’s and Eve’s rejection of God’s command, people have been appointed to die. Early Old Testament writings indicate that the body decayed and the soul ceased to be (Pss. 6:5; 88:10-12). Later, in the writings of the prophets, there was hope of resurrection (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:12). In the New Testament resurrection is not just a hope; it is a reality attested by the reality of Jesus’ resurrection (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:1-32).

In the New Testament death is contrasted to life so that time and eternity have different dimensions. In life there is conflict; in eternity there is harmony. In life there is strife; in eternity there is peace. In life and eternity there are other contrasting qualities such as work versus rest, search versus discovery, suffering versus wholeness, faith versus doubt, yearning versus fulfillment, and imperfection and brokenness versus wholeness. In eternity there is no separation, and knowledge is complete.

These qualities are to be attained at the resurrection, which is to occur at the establishment of the new order. Souls are to sleep until it occurs. The Scriptures are, however, not clear as to when this new order is to be established. Jesus’ promise to the thief (“today you will be with me in paradise”) suggests an immediate transition. Paul seems to have held a similar view, although in his description of the return of Christ he notes that the dead will be raised to life at the sound of the last trumpet. Paul believed that the return of Christ was imminent. In the teaching of both Jesus and Paul there is a retention of the unity of the body, soul, and spirit, although the resurrection body has different dimensions from the one occupied in time.

The early church fathers held to the resurrection view of death, although Origen accepted the Platonic view. Tertullian was the first to propose a purgatory, in which prejudgment was to occur before the doomsday judgment. Augustine supported this view, which in time became the doctrine of the church. Interestingly enough, the doctrine is in accord with the Greek Platonic view instead of the apocalyptic view of Jesus and Paul. It was made the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church by the Council of Trent.

The Protestant view as set forth by Luther and Calvin denied the existence of purgatory and affirmed the reality of the resurrection. Protestant doctrinal positions are either vague or do not speak to the whereabouts of the soul from death until the resurrection, at which time the destiny of every soul to life or death will be decreed.

December 31, 2011 Posted by | Biblical Studies, Theology | , , | Leave a comment

New Year. Same Old Story. Or Not.

Sadly, many are attracted to Christianity because it’s presented as a haven from the struggles and strains of everyday life. Browse the shelves of Christian bookstores (brick and mortar or online). Notice the numerous books that target the emotionally needy—individuals who need a quick fix to satisfy their insatiable addiction to having their spiritual ego stroked. Modern Christianity places an enormous emphasis on the special believer. Some go through life attempting to execute steps and techniques to solidify their anticipated place in heaven. We all fall short of the glory of God is a phrase proudly proclaimed in Christian circles. This keeps believers ripe for any new book, conference, or sermon which purports to unveil how to strengthen one’s walk in Christ or gain unlimited favor of the Father.

It’s common for people to profess the faith of their parents. In fact, that’s how most become Christians in America. They are Christian by default. Very few undertake a personal study of Christianity prior to declaring Jesus their Lord and Savior. As a result, they are ignorant of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Decades later, still clueless.

The prevalence of biblical ignorance among black Christians is disturbing. Not surprising, yet disturbing nonetheless. This is a topic I’ll address in a future post. If you’re a Christian and can’t articulate what that means from a historical perspective, then you need to educate yourself. Not with the latest re-packaged Joel Osteen or T.D. Jakes books. Not with evangelical material that offers several steps to fill-in-the-blank. Biblical literacy (memorized Bible verses don’t count) begins with one step: Step outside of your comfort zone and examine your faith critically. Don’t get offended when asked about the Christian faith. Who? What? When? Why? How? You should be able to articulate well-reasoned answers. But you won’t find answers on Wednesday/Thursday nights at your church. Your children aren’t given this information in Awana. Remember the United Negro College Fund slogan “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”. It applies here as well.

This is the time of year when many embark on resolutions made for the next 12 months. Add this to your list: To read the Bible in its entirety using critical thinking skills. Simply employ logic and reason when analyzing passages.

As a general rule, critical thinking involves developing some emotional and intellectual distance between yourself and ideas — whether your own or others’ — in order to better evaluate their truth, validity, and reasonableness.

Critical thinking is an effort to develop reliable, rational evaluations about what is reasonable for us to believe and disbelieve. Critical thinking makes use of the tools of logic and science because it values skepticism over gullibility or dogmatism, reason over faith, science of pseudoscience, and rationality over wishful thinking. Critical thinking does not guarantee that we will arrive at truth, but it does make it much more likely than any of the alternatives do.

I’ve made one promise for 2012. Stay rational.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Christian Education, Spiritual Reasoning | , , , , | 2 Comments

Unexpected Hiatus

Due to unforeseen circumstances I’ve been missing in action. Posts will resume in January 2012. Stay tuned. Thank you.

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Welcome | Leave a comment