The QuasiChristian

Critical Thinking and Spiritual Reasoning

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

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

The Historicity Of Adam And The Fall


Questions have been raised as to how seriously we are to take this whole narrative about Adam and Eve (and the serpent in the Garden of Eden) as literal history. Many prefer to regard it as a mere myth or fable (suprahistory, to use the neo-orthodox term) in which the moral downfall of man is described by a fictitious episode designed to illustrate it. (Yet insofar as man is a fallen creature, a moral agent with an innate sense of guilt, the myth allegedly reflects a sublime truth, even though no such isolated episode actually took place.) No decisive objections, however, have ever been raised against the historicity of Adam and Eve either on historical, scientific, or philosophical grounds. The protest has been based essentially upon subjective concepts of improbability.

From the standpoint of logic, it is virtually impossible to accept the authority of Rom. 5 (“By one man sin entered into the world.… By one man’s offense death reigned by one.… By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners”) without inferring that the entire human race must have descended from a single father. In Rom. 5, Adam is contrasted with Christ. If therefore Christ was a historical individual, Adam himself must have been historical (or else the inspired apostle was in error). Again, Paul takes the details of Gen. 2 and of the temptation and fall in Gen. 3 as literal history. In 1 Tim. 2:13–14 he says: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” There can be no question that the New Testament authors accepted the literal historicity of Adam and Eve. The origin of the human race is necessarily a matter of revelation by God, since no written records could extend back to a time prior to the invention of writing. Conceivably the true account of man’s origin could have been handed down by oral tradition (and perhaps it was so handed down until Moses’ time). But apart from revelation, written down as inspired Scripture, there could be no assurance as to which of the bewildering variety of legends of man’s origin known to the many different cultures of earth was the true and reliable account. Here the inspired record tells of a literal Adam and Eve, and gives no indication whatever that the account is intended to be mythical. In this connection note that Luke 3:38 traces the ancestry of Jesus back to Enos, to Seth, and finally to Adam himself (who must therefore have been as historic an individual as Seth and Enos). It was certainly taken as historical by Christ and the apostles.

Archer, G. L. (1998). A survey of Old Testament introduction (3rd. ed.].) (213–214). Chicago: Moody Press.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Biblical Studies | , , , , | 1 Comment