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Quotes From Bizarro World: part 3 September 20, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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This is a continuation of a series of quotations from, and commentary of, my reading of John Frame’s book, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, which I am reading for a class about faith in Christian life.  I will be under-cover, so shhhhh…..

Part 1

Part 2

So, what shall we speak of today?

The Trinity.

Oh, joy! That’s an easy one that can be covered in a blog post, right? Well, no.  I would just like to quote Frame from the chapter entitled God, Three in One and makes a few observations.

Remember, though, that Scripture gives us only a glimpse, not a treatise…. Much that the Bible teaches about the Trinity is very mysterious, and we must bow in humility as we enter into this holy realm

(page 30)

So, in other words the Bible is vague about this doctrine, but we are going to humble ourselves before it anyway?  OK, I thought that the Bible was the ultimate source of truth, and so where it is vague we will simply humble ourselves to a view that was attained through latter interpretation of vague verses?  I’m getting ahead of myself….

Frame then lists 5 assertions (his term), which I will simplify into a list.

5 assertions

  1. God is One
  2. God is Three
  3. The three persons are all each fully God
  4. Each person is distinct from each-other
  5. They are related eternally as Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Ok, let’s start with #1.  I don’t believe it, but I understand.  How about #2? I don’t believe it but I understand…that is until my memory reminds me that #1 said something which flatly contradicts #2.

So, after I pick up the pieces of my exploded brain, I take a deep breath and try to move onto #3.  I can’t.  My brain is still experiencing some sort of stop error, and I cannot move on.  The first two assertions are purely contradictory.  But this is supposed to be a mystery.  And besides, my mind, intellect, etc are fallen, sinful, and broken.  I am not supposed to understand, but just accept.

Except that the Bible is vague on this point….

*sigh*

Let’s move on. Frame says that there have been “debates over the deity of Christ.”  Not just in modern times, but in ancient times.  During the 3rd and 4th centuries, many views of Jesus conflicted among the early Christians, even though Frame does say later (in chapter 10 entitled Who is Jesus Christ?) that there is no debate in the NT about this issue.  One wonders how now-heretical views could have formed without Scriptural basis?  Probably it has something to do with the fact that the canonical books that became the Bible had not been declared canon until after 325 AD.  Before then there were other texts being considered as authoritative by many people.  Many of these books are gone, some have been subsequently found.

Still, continues Frame,

But the conclusion of the Christian church since its inception, and the conclusion of the Bible itself, is that Father, Son, and Spirit are each fully God.

(page 32)

Sure, the Bible as voted one by councils in the 4th century (starting with Nicaea).  The letters, gospels, etc that created a theological problem for this view were considered heretical, and often destroyed.  So, while the scriptures that became canonical were vague at best, other writings made this issue even less clear when considered.  Modern readers often do not know about these non-canonical texts, and so they are out of mind.  Still the Bible we have is vague about this doctrine, but this idea is central to most Christian theology almost without question.

Yeah, that makes sense….

Frame adds this;

The work of theology is not just reading through the Scriptures but applying the Scriptures to the questions people ask, applying it to their needs.

(page 35)

Seems innocuous enough.  Then you start to think about it.  Theology is an attempt to categorize what is written.  It is an attempt to make sense out of the Scripture in terms of what matters to us in our lives, right? Why would the Trinity be necessary for this?

Let’s follow the trail and see where Frame leads us.  At the end of the chapter, Frame tells us that

If Jesus the Son of God is only a creature, [Athanasius] said, then we are guilty of idolatry….[Jesus] is worthy of worship only if he is equal to the Father….”

and then further down the page,

If the Arians were right…then we are hoping to be saved from sin through a mere creature.  Only if Jesus is fully God, a member of the ontological Trinity, can he save us from our sins.

(page 41)

Ah! I see now.  The Trinity becomes a doctrine to explain how Jesus, his so-called sacrifice, is able to have theological import.  The Trinity is a solution to a problem of getting to where theologians want to get; salvation.  It’s a puzzle-solution, not a philosophical methodology for figuring out what is true, lines up with reality, or anything like that.  (Heresy!).

If you read the New Testament, you will not find a clear treatise on the Trinity.  Jesus does not say he is equal to the Father and the Spirit, that they are all 3 persons of the same substance, or anything like that.

But Jesus is supposed to have said something things that would have been heretical to the Jewish establishment and which identified him as at least similar to God.  The whole “Son of Man” thing, the doing of miracles, etc.  So, by taking these puzzle pieces and structuring them into the Trinitarian formula, Athanasius and the early church along with him put together a coherent whole that, while not sensible, seeks to harmonize the claims of the gospels, Paul’s writings, etc. It’s a matter of creating the appearance of coherence in God’s Word, not in making sense of reality based on logic, rational enquiry, or (gods! no!) any proto-scientific method.

This seems to me to be a strange, backwards, way to figure out a mystery.  Philosophical methodology might ask you to figure out what is logically possible then try to apply that to what is found.  Here, logical possibility is thrown out as a criteria because we are broken, body and mind.  The Word is the authority, our minds are broken.

We cannot trust ourselves, our minds, or rational thought.

Well, all there is to do under those conditions is believe, right?

Ugh….

Don’t think about that too hard.

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Quotes from Bizarro World (2) September 11, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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This is a continuation of a series of quotations from, and commentary of, my reading of John Frame’s book, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, which I am reading for a class about faith in Christian life.  I will be under-cover, so shhhhh…..

See Part1

“as believers in Christ we don’t get what we deserve.  We deserve death, but God has placed that punishment of death on his Son.  In Jesus’ death he gets what we deserve….”

(page 23)

Now, this quotation brings up nothing new to me, but I think it is more valid to quote what an actual Christian says than to try and summarize based upon generalities.  This way, no straw-men are hurt in the writing of this post.

This common theme, that we are all sinners worthy of death, is disturbing to me.  It is not disturbing in the way that Frame, and other Christians, may expect it to be disturbing; I am not worried about the death that I deserve.  I’m disturbed because this view seeks to distract us from this world, a world of this magical and mythological thing called ‘sin’ which supposedly pervades our very being.

Christian theology seeks, fundamentally, to make us feel broken.  It is a great marketing technique to make the customer feel like they lack something, then to present them with a product to fill that gap.  The fact that religion tends to use this method quite frequently explains that it’s success has to do with how our brains work and are manipulated much more than religious messages being true.

But what are they selling?  Belief in Jesus, right?  Well, yes, but it is done through this substitutional atonement; Jesus suffered for your sins.  This makes no sense at all, but it seems sweet of him to try.  This substitutional framework is mirrored on the idea that Adam, who represents us in his fall from the “covenant of works” (by which humanity was tested to see if they could obey God’s laws and failed in the eating of the fruit of the tree…you know the story).  Adam failed, Adam represents us.  Jesus succeeded, and Jesus seeks to represent us if we would only believe….

There is something in the mind that catches at this.  It is a subtle psychological method going on here.  There is a subtle manipulation, one that I have never succumbed to, but I feel it.  I don’t feel it in a desirous way, I feel it in a way similar to that feeling I get when I hear a good sales pitch.  I subtly think yeah, that makes a kind of sense…I should buy that! but am then returned to reality where I don’t need a George Foreman grill.

(I’m waiting for some Christians to tell me that this feeling is God trying to reach out, but my hardened heart refuses to accept the free gift…you now the drill.)

And so God gave his only begotten Son and all that, right? We should feel thankful, shouldn’t we?  Well, I have addressed Jesus’ ‘sacrifice‘ before, and I don’t think much of it.  I know the whole “fully God, fully man” thing is supposed to make it possible for Jesus to suffer and make the crucifixion meaningful, but I don’t buy that either.  I guess that makes me a heretic for not accepting the Chalcedonian Declaration.  Whether Nestorian, Monophysite, or mythicist, I am certainly a heretic of some sort.

People, we are not sinners.  There is no reason to believe a literal and historical Fall occurred.  There is no reason to accept that a mythological Fall occurred, or that we are inherently sinful or broken in any spiritual way.   In fact, there is no reason to accept the existence of a non-metaphorical ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ in the first place.

Any imperfections in our being are due to the blind forces that formed us over millions of years of evolution–not some moral failing due to lack of obedience to some megalomaniacal  bully of a god.  We have the ability to educate ourselves, improve ourselves, and we don’t need a savior from any fairy-tale sins.

There is nothing to save us from.

Quotes from Bizarro World September 10, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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This is the first in a series of quotations, and very likely commentary, from my reading of John Frame’s book, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, which I am reading for a class about faith in Christian life.  I will be under-cover, so shhhhh…..

Secularists usually try to argue that the personal reduces to the impersonal…[they] are ultimately just matter, motion, space, time, and chance.  But the Bible teaches the opposite; the impersonal reduces to the personal.  Matter, motion, space, time, and chance are, ultimately, tools used by one great Person to organize and run the universe he has made.

(page 7)

This is the first glimpse within this screed that we are not dealing with someone that is going to justify any argument in any other way than the Bible says so.  In fact, it is clear, as I read on, that we are dealing with a person that believes that the Bible is as authoritative as the words directly from God’s mouth.  In fact, he says pretty much just that in chapter 5.

The Bible, argues Frame, is infallible (even if it is not always precise), especially in regards to salvation.

So, when we see Frame addressing secularists, we should not expect a rational response.  After all, the intellect (along with will and emotions) are part of our sinful nature.  We must trust God’s word completely, especially over our own senses, judgments, and reason because these things are fallen.  Rather than tell us why the impersonal reduces to the personal, we are told that Scripture says so, and the authority of Scripture is absolute.

No room for argument.

How stifling!  How backwards!  How sickening!  And, granted, this form of Christian faith is not the only one out there, but it is a pervasive one among many churches.  This type of Reformed theology, Calvinist in perspective and literalist in interpretation, is quite common.  Even if most church-goers don’t take it so seriously as to actually live their life completely according to the implications of this worldview, it acts as a backdrop to our views about education, sexuality, and so on.

It can’t make the anti-intellectual culture we live in any better, because intellect is sinful.  And I, my dear reader, am merely lost.  But God created me to be lost, so I guess he won’t complain or punish me or anything….

I need a shower…

Slavation Belongs to the Lord September 9, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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OK, I need to take a break.

I really can’t take any more of this right now….

OK, context! Yes, dear reader, you need context to such a statement.

Very well.

I am planning on taking a class at a local church about faith in everyday life. Part of the class involves reading a book, an introduction to systematic theology, by a very conservative theologian by the name of John M. Frame. It is called Salvation belongs to the Lord. and I have been reading it in preparation for the class.

Why am I taking this class? Well, partly because I am interested in learning about theology from an insider’s perspective.  But I also want to sit in and hear discussions among Christians and hear what they have to say, so that I am better informed about what people think about such things.

I intend to say little, and I will not lie about my views but will not offer them, at least at first.  If I am asked directly, I have decided not to hide who I am and why I am there, but otherwise I intend to listen a lot.

So, why am I so frustrated? Because this book proposes a literalitic and conservative view of the Bible that is so absurd, so constraining, and so repressive that I can only take it small bits at a time.

We must, argues Frame, submit our will, intellect, and emotions to God’s will.  There is no ability to think for ourselves, especially if we are to question anything the Bible says.

We did not evolve.  He spent about 3/4 of a page discussing evolution and merely dismissed it on the basis that it is not in accordance with Scripture.

I could go on.  I won’t.  In the coming weeks I will discuss this class, our discussions within, and perhaps sections of the book.  for now, I just wanted to rant for a moment before I tore the book in half and ran screaming into the night.

Salvation Belongs to not reading this crap anymore…

Yet I will persevere.