The QuasiChristian

Critical Thinking and Spiritual Reasoning

Book Recommendation: The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin With A Mythical Christ? (Earl Doherty)


From the Back Cover

Why are the events of the Gospel story, and its central character Jesus of Nazareth, not found in the New Testament epistles? Why does Paul’s divine Christ seem to have no connection to the Gospel Jesus, but closely resembles the many pagan savior gods of the time who lived only in myth? Why, given the spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire in the first century, did only one Christian community compose a story of Jesus’ life and death-the Gospel of Mark-while every other Gospel simply copied and reworked the first one? Why is every detail in the Gospel story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion drawn from passages in the Old Testament? The answer to these and other questions surrounding the New Testament will come as a shock to those who imagine that the origins of Christianity and the figure of Jesus are securely represented by Christian tradition and the Gospels. With the arrival of the third millennium, the time has come to face the stunning realization that for the last 1900 years, Christianity has revered a founder and icon of the faith who probably never existed.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Apologetics, Biblical Criticism, Biblical Scholarship, Books (Recommended) | 1 Comment

The Harlot Shall Be Burned with Fire: Biblical Literalism in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Religion Dispatches: Sarah Sentilles

I must admit that part of me is relieved to have these disturbing passages out in public. These bloody verses that insist women be punished with violent death—often for perceived or imagined sexual transgressions—are usually overlooked, downplayed, skipped over, ignored. Most people like to pretend they aren’t really in the text. Especially people who claim to take the Bible literally.

Passages like these should render biblical literalism impossible. Their existence illuminates that literalists always engage in selective literalism, choosing the passages that support the arguments they want to make. And what is the rubric for selective literalism other than convenience and the maintenance of oppressive power relationships? When faced with such verses—or even passages about keeping kosher or not being around women who are menstruating—many a literalist will argue something like “that was then and this is now,” while in the very next breath (I’m talking to you, Rick Santorum, and you, Michele Bachmann) they’ll insist that homosexuality is an abomination or that women should submit to their husbands. Why? Because it’s in the Bible.

The film could, in fact, be read as an argument against biblical literalism; a warning about the misogynist violence embedded in the biblical text…

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January 14, 2012 Posted by | Biblical Criticism, Biblical Studies, Women | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rick Warren’s Illiteracy Problem


English: PressKit photo of Rick Warren

Image via Wikipedia

Link

The Christian Post reported recently that megapastor Rick Warren has discerned a significant problem among American Christians: Biblical illiteracy. In the face of this, he’s launching a new Bible study called “40 Days in the Word.” In a year-end webcast he plugged the new study, insisting that “Americans are biblically illiterate. They just don’t know the Word of God… Our parents’ generation knew the Word of God pretty well. My generation knew a little bit. The next generation knows none of it.”

He may be right. Over the last several years it has become clear that American Christians know little about the Bible, and in 2010 Pew study atheists and agnostics performed better on a test of basic biblical knowledge than did Christians. It’s a problem. Christians should know more about the book they profess to love. They should not be biblically illiterate.

But there are other kinds of illiteracy. There is, for example, scientific illiteracy. It too is a problem in America. And there is evidence that it is related to religious beliefs. This is hardly surprising. When one is raised to see science as the enemy of faith; when churches actively work against science education; when a literal understanding of Genesis is a requirement for faculty at major seminaries, scientific literacy suffers.

It is easy to blame extreme anti-science people like Albert Mohler and Ken Ham for this problem, and some responsibility does fall on them.

But I suspect more moderate leaders like Warren have a lot to do with it.

Click to continue reading

I agree with Jim Reed’s comment in response.

To be biblically literate do you also have to understand the problems with the Bible such as questions about authorship, unresolved contradictions, and things that are shown by science to be wrong? I would think you do. Without that understanding your biblical literacy is really only Christian propaganda. This might be the case with Rick Warren. His biblical literacy might depend on one accepting the conservative Christian perspective is divinely inspired.

And DanVoj’s comment.

Warren wants people to know more about what the Bible literally says than what we should know about it.

It all comes down to control: memorizing the Bible is one thing, while analyzing it is another. Control can always be had from illiteracy. Now, Warren’s statement is the same as many other “pastors” around the country, but you don’t see them recommending a scholar like Bart Ehrman for follow-up analysis. THEY are the true analysts, and they will ultimately tell you what to think.

Warren wants people to be Bible-savants, not analytical Christians.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Biblical Criticism, Christian Education, Current Events, Science | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Slavery Is Moral, This I Know, For The Bible Tells Me So


The Bible without a doubt condones slavery and in some respect promotes it. I mention this to black Christians all the time and I get the deer in headlights look. They think I’m making this stuff up. The first thing they do is get defensive, then they deny it. Vehemently proclaiming, “Not my God!” (Some people can’t accept that the Bible was compiled by men for men.) These are the folks who take their Bible with them wherever they go. Pulling it out whenever they can to show you that they’re “saved”.  What are they reading? Just the ooh-you’re-so-special-and-others-aren’t verses? I’ve seen people grab their phone and call their pastor instead of looking up the verses themselves. Usually the person on the other end tells them that Satan is using me, and to just ignore me. And that’s exactly what they do. Willful ignorance.

In the household codes sections of Colossians and Ephesians the promotion of slavery is clear. In Colossians slaves are instructed to obey their masters in every respect. This sounds like a euphemistic way of saying give into their sexual demands as well. Practices carried over from the Old Testament. What else could it mean to stipulate “obey your earthly masters in everything”? The Bible says don’t resent your Christian masters. This is to address those who might think it inconsistent for a believer to have an owner who considers himself a brother in the faith. Of course it’s inconsistent.

Philemon is the only hint we have of the slightest disapproval of slavery. It certainly pales in comparison to Colossians which is supposedly aimed at the same people in the congregation.

Sometimes in the Bible you were just selling your labor for a certain period. Slavery in the ancient world was not always the horror that it was during the Civil War or even today (sex slaves). It’s a mixed bag and an ambiguous picture, but it’s hard to absolve the Bible completely. You can’t expect too much out of the Bible writers as people in an ancient culture, but on the other hand there were people who had seen a bit farther into the future. Some of the presocratics seem to have understood that slavery was against human nature. So it’s not like no one had ever thought of this. Oh, and the Bible is supposed to be divinely inspired, isn’t it? Hint. Hint.

Was Jesus afraid to say, “Hey everybody, commandment #1 no more slavery! You can’t own your fellow children of God, only God can!” Why isn’t that in the text? Jesus is supposedly upset at what’s going on in the temple, but not upset that humans own other humans? Did Jesus say to himself, “I’d like to say that and save a lot of people torment, but they’d never buy it so I’m keeping my mouth shut.” This was the guy who was supposedly willing to go to the cross for what he said. He just punked out? What revelation is there? Wasn’t Jesus supposed to reveal the new way of life, the new Christian ethic?

Didn’t God know that people would justify slavery based on what’s in the Old Testament and New Testament? Didn’t Jesus have the foresight to know that he should explicitly condemn slavery so that there would be “divine” record of this? A condemnation of slavery in the Sermon on the Mount seems logical.

Heck, why didn’t God make it part of the Ten Commandments. There’d be no reason to state “You shall not covet your neighbor’s … male or female slave.” Here’s what should have been said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; therefore you shall make slaves of no man, male or female.” God has a problem with the Egyptians having Hebrew slaves, but no qualms with slavery in general.

Instead we get this:

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever. (Exodus 21:1-7)

When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money. (Exodus 21:20-21)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Ephesians 6:5-9)

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Timothy 6:1-5)

Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:9-10, 15)

For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. (1 Peter 2:15-20)

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)

According to the Bible, God nor Jesus nor the writers themselves ever condemn slavery. No wonder many outside of the Christian faith are baffled by blacks/African-Americans who cling to the Bible as a “testament” of God’s love for them. How can people whose ancestors were snatched from their homeland and kept in bondage for hundreds of years by Christians whose actions are justified by the Bible claim the same faith? It’s most puzzling indeed.

January 2, 2012 Posted by | Biblical Criticism, Morality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment