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July 29, 2012

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When Jesus chose "father" as the analogy to explain God to his listeners, what that says to me is that Joseph was one heck of a man. Pity he gets so roundly ignored.

I think it is too bad that the traditional Christian take on Jesus as the Son of God blithely ignores the first two words of the Lord's Prayer he taught: "Our father...". And as you are the son (or daughter) of your father, does that not also make you a son of God -- in exactly the same way.

I guess that makes be a pretty ideosyncratic Christian. But it seems like the only honest take.

Interesting stuff, doc. James Carroll touches on similar themes in his book "Jerusalem, Jerusalem", at least in the first 100 or so pages I have read so far. I recommend it to all.

Thanks.

Curious why such tortured theological gymnastics is required? We know that events didn't happen as described, that there is no promised Land, so why the charade?

wj is agreeing with a key difference between traditional Christian beleif and Mormon doctrine. Mormon's believe that all humans are literally the sons and daughters of God.

reboho- Because reading the passage in a positive fashion is a litmus test for membership in certain modern day social groupings. Until every religion descended from these texts are dead letters, we will be unable to read these passages like we do Gilgamesh.

Canaan was the son of Ham, who was the son of Noah. Yes, there is a fundamental interconnectedness of things in Biblical accounts. And, yes, in that sense Canaanites were Israelites. But Israelites are the descendants of Jacob. I think the difficulty here is the equation of tribal and national boundaries.

I think the claim is that the Israelites were, in reality, not descended from a mass exodus of six hundred thousand male slaves (along with their families, so probably a couple million people) from Egypt. There's no archaeological evidence for that. So what at least some historians and archaeologists are claiming is that most of the Israelites were really just living in Canaan all along. There's no evidence of the massive campaign attributed to Joshua or of the genocide of the Canaanites, so the theological problem becomes not "Why did God have them do that?", but "why is this endorsement of genocide in the Bible whether or not it actually happened?"

I think some have suggested that there must have been some sort of exodus event, just not on the scale described in Exodus or the Heston movie. So the relatively small group of people who really did escape from Egypt are identified with a much larger group, sort of like the way Americans might identify with the Founding Fathers and the Revolution even if their ancestors came over later on.

All this theological nonsense over an improbable being. why do people waste their lives on such nonsense

"But then, I'd say that no Jew approaches the Bible expecting (or wanting) its meaning to be clear or simple, or for there to be a reading of any passage that is the "real" or sole intended one. If you can't read it a number of different ways, you're not reading it right."

I read Karen Armstrong's book about the Boble and she makes this pointe repeatedly.

It's very strange to discuss the Bible with an American fundamentalist because they simultaneously insist that their interpretation of the Bible is not an interpretation (because they are right! They know what God meant!) while claiming to be the real true supporters of Jews based on the real true understanding of Jewish history.

They know what God meant!

I've always found that sentiment to be blasphemous, myself. Not that I'm religious, so blasphemy isn't, in and of itself, something that bothers me much. But I would expect it to bother the sort of people who think of themselves as being good Christians. And it does bother me only because of the sort of behavior and thinking it allows people to believe are justified by it.

Baskaborr,
Just for the record I should perhaps note that I am not (and never have been) a Mormon. And my impression, from far outside, is that their religion has a number of other serious differences from mainstream Christianity.

"mainstream Christianity" -- is that a meaningful concept these days?

Why can't Christians simply say that the genocide in the OT is hideous, repellent, monstrous, and evil--which it is? Why must they degrade themselves by finding excuses for it or by trying to change the subject? Why defend the Bible--a mere set of books-- when Christ is supposed to be their Lord and the person to whom they are committed? Clearly these people worship the Bible idol and not the Christ of the cross and of the empty tomb. No wonder Christianity is dying in the western world; it's following the other idol-worshipping pagan religions into oblivion.

Just some thoughts:


The notion of a “personal relationship with God,” has quite a history in the United States.

Within high church Christian denominations, (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran) the mystical aspects of the theology resembled and satisfied a type of “intimate relationship.” But high-church discipline would place the “relationship” within a context that usually kept in mind a historical-critical context. If you pushed it, you left and started a religious movement.

And many did!

As the popularity of low-church traditions, (Methodist, Holiness, Pentecostals, Sanctified, 7th day Adventists), and then their off-shoots, (Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses) became more wide-spread, the mystical experience and the primacy of the individual experience became more popular. On top of that, Existentialism and Marxism also influenced many Presbyterians and Lutheran theologians (Paul Tillich comes to mind) to emphasize the “personal experience and relationship”. These guys still respected the historical-critical context, but they also rejected the literalism. While low-church types (at least popularly) never took the historical-critical context all that serious, but embraced literalism to the nth degree. These 2 streams of theological trends give birth to the many understandings of a “personal relationship” with God, we have today. Plus….since it’s a “personal relationship,” many use the latest pop-psychologies to articulate this very personal relationship.

Today, “personal relationship” seems to act as if God is your best friend, a buddy you would want to have a beer with…and of course you would not have a beer with a genocidal maniac. While, for others “personal relationship” seems to mean, “intimate relationship” and would never refer to God as a “personal friend” of buddy.

If it is a personal relationship, much like a close friend, then…wouldn’t your friend agree with your nationalist understandings of scripture?

The main take away is:
1. Invent your conclusions
2. Use the Bible and Torah to support them.

There is, for some people, a step three: doubt yourself, be humble about your religious convictions, be always looking for answers but beware of finding them.

Those are the kind of religious people I like. The other kind, well, to me they range from the boring to the obnoxious.

But I care a lot more about what people do than I do about what they say.

Laura:

Would not replacing

"...be always looking for answers but beware of finding them"

by

"...be always looking for answers but reject them if they violate logic or the requirement for evidence, despite them making you feel good"

be preferable?

Art:
The main take away is:
1. Invent your conclusions
2. Use the Bible and Torah to support them.

exactly.

and that's what I get from Dr S's:
But then, I'd say that no Jew approaches the Bible expecting (or wanting) its meaning to be clear or simple, or for there to be a reading of any passage that is the "real" or sole intended one. If you can't read it a number of different ways, you're not reading it right.

if it doesn't give you the answer you like, read it again - you can find a way to make it work.

good stuff, religion. you get to claim to be acting according to God's Will, which you carefully divined (so as to match what you were going to do anyway) from lawyerly reading of a text you know nobody agrees on.

wj,
I'm a lapsed Mormon, joined in my teens, left in my late twenties, active for about twelve years. My view of "mainstream Chrisianity" is probably skewed by my personal experience. I'll tell you my deep dark family secret, I'm descended from a long line of Missionaries. My mother grew up in Jamaica where her father was a Baptist missionary. He was born and raised in China where his father was a baptist missionary. My mother switched to Methodist after the death of her parents. Both my brothers joined the Catholic church as adults. That plus my experience dealing with operation rescue after I volunteered to escort patients through picket lines into women's health clinics in the 80s, which led to myself and my wife getting concealed weapons permits and going armed at all times constitue my experience with Christianity in the US.

Yes there are other major doctrinal differences between Mormon and the Christian denominations I am familiar with. In my view those differences have the foundations in two things. The first is the whole Eden and Christ in the new world thing, the second is the literal offspring of God doctrine. That doctrine leads to the logical consequence that each of us, if we follow the proper path, will with our spouse perform our own creation and become the God of the universe we create. I suspect there aren't many other Christian denominations that don't consider that heretical.

Missed one. Back when I had a sideline in photography I shot publicity stills for the United Pentacostal Church International. That involved portraits of several church leaders and attending and photographing services at three congregations. I find I always get better portraits after I relax the subject with conversation unrelated to photography. I also took every opportunity to talk to the church members before I started photographing. I found the Pentacostals not at all shy about discussing their beliefs, so I came out of that experience with at least a basic understanding of the Pentacostal church.

So quoting your 3re paragraph in my blog.

You nailed a difference that I've always had a problem verbalizing.

It's very strange to discuss the Bible with an American fundamentalist because they simultaneously insist that their interpretation of the Bible is not an interpretation (because they are right! They know what God meant!) while claiming to be the real true supporters of Jews based on the real true understanding of Jewish history.

I will keep this very excellent point in mind for a long time.

They know what God meant!

This is a subset of "I know I/we am/are right." It's a universal human defect.

I'm an Episcopalian. I don't argue with dyed-in-the-wool Christians very often and never with dyed-in-the-wool atheists. Neither is productive nor especially uplifting.

One semi-funny thing from a recent sermon at my church: "God created man in his image and man, unfortunately, has been trying to return the favor ever since."*

*'Man' in this context is synonymous with humanity. We have female priests and bishops.

"Even those (like John Piper) who say that it's God's right to kill anyone whenever he pleases are maybe not willing to say that it's God's right to order mass rape."

I'm too lazy to find the links, but Piper has been cozying up to a least one rape apologist.

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