Moderate Christian Apologists and Pastors are sending Orthodox Christianity down a Slippery Slope






Nick Peters, moderate Christian apologist on Theology Web:

 
Oh good grief. No. The snake (mentioned in the Creation Story) is a representation of a chaos creature in an ancient account of sacred space. The reference to crawling on the belly and eating dust is not saying snakes could once walk, but rather saying that the chaos creature responsible for this action will be placed in a position of shame.
 
 
If the Bible says there was a
walking, talking snake then by god, there was
a walking, talking snake!

 

Mike, conservative Christian:

Sorry Nick. You can’t state that as fact. Gary’s going to be shocked but fair is fair. We CANNOT just invoke symbolism wherever we wish and we certainly cannot expect skeptics to buy as fact these conjectures. Yes I know there is a whole lot of ANE comparisons and conjectures regarding Genesis 1 and 2 but frankly I think what some Christians do with Genesis and other passages feed the mouth of skeptics.

If you look at it objectively from the outside you are begging that skeptics accepts things that are not stated in the text and

A) thats not going to happen
B) its a slippery slope which begs the question – why can’t I invoke symbolism anywhere I wish

Gary:

Mike: You are 100% correct. What Nick and Tabby are doing is a very dangerous slippery slope. I should know, I started onto that slope 18 months ago, and look where I am now. Inerrancy and a literal interpretation of the Bible is the best hope for the survival of conservative Christianity.

If my pastor had stuck to inerrancy, I might still be a Christian. But instead of preaching the “party line” of my conservative Christian denomination, he thought he knew better than the “dimwits” running the denomination. He didn’t believe in a literal Creation. He didn’t believe in a literal Tower of Babel. He didn’t believe in a literal world-wide Flood. He didn’t believe that Methuselah literally lived to be over nine hundred years old. He didn’t believe that Jonah had literally been in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights…But he definitely believed in a literal reanimation of Jesus!

What does that do to the thinking of the man and woman in the pew??

If all or most of the supernatural stories in the Old Testament are simply allegorical fables, why should the man or woman in the pew believe, literally, the central supernatural claim of the Christian faith: the bodily resurrection of Jesus? If it doesn’t matter whether or not God created the universe as is described in Genesis, then why does it matter if Jesus was bodily resurrected? Why not believe that the story of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is just another of the Bible’s allegories?? Jesus’ body is still dead, it was his spirit that was resurrected, and it is his spirit that lives on in our hearts?

I believe that the best defense against the onslaught of skeptic attacks on conservative/traditional Christianity is holding a firm line on inerrancy. Moderate Christians who abandon a literal Creation, a literal world-wide Flood, and a literal Tower of Babel, etc., are only assisting in the demise of orthodox Christianity. The best response to any skeptic attack on the Christian faith is this: “Whatever evidence you present that skeptics believe proves the Bible false, whether with reason or science, is wrong. Period. No matter how true it may seem to our human brains, God says it is wrong, and I choose to listen to God, not man.”

Who can defeat that argument?

Repeat after me:
“The Bible is right. Science is wrong.
  The Bible is right.  Science is wrong.
  The Bible…”

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16 thoughts on “Moderate Christian Apologists and Pastors are sending Orthodox Christianity down a Slippery Slope

  1. For me, this whole matter doesn’t so much revolve around a problem with the supernatural. God can perform any miracle that pleases Him.

    It’s just that I think there are a variety of genres present in the Scripture? For me, to respect Scripture is to be aware of this whole issue. I don’t think all Scripture is intended to be interpreted literally? For example, was it God’s intention to give a modern scientific treatise concerning human origin and cosmology? Would this have made sense to the people of ancient times? Even the early church fathers, such as Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa interpreted portions of Genesis in an allegorical way. Genesis One reads more like poetry to me in a way that, for instance, Luke/Acts does not.

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    1. Hi Rebecca,

      It is certainly possible that the Creation story was never meant to be taken literally. But did you ever consider that the same may be true for many other stories in the Bible, such as the Empty Tomb story and the Resurrection appearances stories? If so, isn’t it much more probable that Jesus is still dead?

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      1. Yes, Gary, I have definitely considered this. But, I think once allowing for the supernatural, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is truly the most likely explanation for the genesis of the early Christian church.

        Also, I think the genre in Scripture which speaks of the resurrection does not read like poetry or allegory to me in the same way as Genesis One. For instance, I think the author of Luke/Acts wrote in a style that is very similar to the Greek historians of the time such as Polybius and to a lesser degree, that of Thucydides.

        And, according to the witness of the Scripture, the apostles and early Christians did not seem to interpret the empty tomb in simply a spiritual or merely symbolic sense . Just to give one example…Paul’s preaching before the Areopagus, recorded in Acts 17:32..

        31For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” 32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some began to mock him, but others said, “We want to hear you again” on this topic.

        I do know this has been a topic of controversy in the church with some actually favoring a more symbolic spiritual interpretation such as Dr. Marcus Borg. But, I definitely affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus myself. Have really appreciated some of the insights of the Anglican theologian N.T. Wright on this topic.

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        1. Hi Rebecca,

          Since the supernatural cannot be ruled out, anything is possible. So the real question is, what is probable. Let me give you two scenarios and you tell me which is more probable simply based on past and present collective human experience:

          Scenario 1: A never heard of before or since resurrection/reanimation of a dead body occurred in c. 30 AD. This resurrected body then appeared to multiple persons, allowing those persons to touch him. Forty days later, this resurrected body levitated into the clouds. Eyewitnesses to these events either wrote the Gospels themselves or faithfully passed on these stories to others who accurately wrote them down.

          Scenario 2: Jesus was crucified and buried in the usual Roman fashion—a common grave for those executed that week. Within days, Jesus’ followers began to believe that he had returned from the dead as he had promised. Some had vivid dreams in which they believed Jesus appeared to them. Some saw lights or other natural phenomena that they mistook for Jesus (similar to Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road). The Christian Church grew based on these claims of a resurrection, not based on an empty rock tomb. This is why Paul never mentions the rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in any of his epistles.

          Circa forty years later, a Greek Christian in Rome writes the Gospel of Mark. The purpose of his Gospel is primarily evangelization, not to write an historically accurate biography. Therefore he adds theological embellishments, such as an Empty Tomb of a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea. This embellishment in no way changes the core message of the Christian belief system: salvation by faith in Jesus the Christ.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Gary, first I just want to say that I really appreciate this discussion, and your penetrating questions

            I would have to respond that my view probably would encompass parts of both of these scenerios. I definitely feel that there are some theological embellishments that have been inserted into the gospels by the early church. I know there is dispute even among the orthodox scholars concerning the ending of Mark.

            But, I honestly feel that the bodily resurrection is something which is taught throughout the New Testament as a whole. I’m just thinking now of 1Cor. 15:3-8., for example.

            3 For I delivered to you [a]as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to [b]James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as [c]to one untimely born, He appeared to me also..
            .
            All of the gospels, although there are variations in the details, speak of bodily appearances of Jesus after the crucifixion.
            It’s just difficult for me to believe that all of the early believers were just experiencing shared dreams or hallucinations.

            I do want to add that I don’t so much picture Jesus as levitating into the clouds in the ascension as if He were taking a trip into outer space. I think the cloud is like a symbol of the divine presence as often occurs in Scripture , (Exodus 19:6, Dan.7:13, Mark 9:7) I think this is all signifying Jesus’ return to the Father, and taking up exalted authority, so to speak, at the right hand of the throne of God. (using symbolic, anthropomorphic language, of course.)

            I think there is just so much to say about this topic. It’s impossible to even address it in a few posts. I mean the resurrection of Jesus is about so much more than just the resuscitation of a dead corpse. A large part of what I think about the atonement of Christ has to do with our unity with Him in this. Being also raised to newness of life, and being enabled to share in His love and reconciliation.

            Here’s a quote by Dr. John Polkinghorne, the Anglican theologian, and also theoretical physicist….

            ” The resurrection of Christ is a vindication of deep seated human intuition that in the end the last word does not lie with death and futility, but we live in world that is a meaningful cosmos and not ultimately a meaningless chaos.”

            Sorry, if I seemed all over the map in this. I think my thoughts are flowing faster than my typing fingers. 🙂
            Anyway, I want to say again that I appreciate your good questions. It has caused me personally to think even more deeply about my own basis for faith, and that is always a very good thing.

            Off now to stuff myself with turkey, and play with my grandbabies. Hope your day is awesome with your family as well, Gary.

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          2. I certainly believe that it is highly probable that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus had “appeared” to them, the question is, why did they come to believe this? Notice the chronological order of the appearances listed in First Corinthians: “He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to [b]James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, as [c]to one untimely born, He appeared to me also..”

            The list in no way resembles the order in which Jesus allegedly appears to people in the Gospels. I realize that Christian apologists have all kinds of excuses for this but I don’t buy them. To me this is more evidence that the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are theological embellishments.

            Notice too in the First Corinthians list that Paul infers that Jesus “appeared” to Cephas and the others no differently than he appeared to him. And how does the Bible say that Jesus appeared to Paul? Acts chapter 26 tells us: a bright light…in a vision.

            Which is more probable based on collective human experience: Cephas and the others saw a real resurrected dead body, or, they individually had a vivid dream or collectively saw a bright light or some other natural phenomena that they mistook for Jesus. The last two thousands years is littered with claims by Roman Catholic Christians, in groups, who claim to have seen dead people, so why should we think it is impossible that the same misperceptions of reality did not happen with first century Jewish peasants?

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  2. I can’t help but wonder how Paul knew about all these other “appearances.” Was he there for each of them? Or did he just take the people’s word for it? And yes, if Jesus appeared to Cephas just as he did to Paul, then obviously, he saw nothing more than a bright light.

    But of course, most believers never look that close at the scriptures …

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    1. But, what about Paul’s preaching recorded in Acts 13:32-37..

      32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “ ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ 34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “ ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “ ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

      Guys, I do feel strongly about this, but I could be wrong. There are certainly Christian people in the church
      who struggle with the bodily resurrection and favor a more spiritual interpretation. I guess the main issue is really the presence of Jesus in our own lives, what He means to us as our Lord and Savior.

      Wishing everyone a blessed and Merry Christmas.

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        1. I think it depends on the person. I know even as a young child, I struggled with issues of faith, relating to the existence of God. Had a huge issue with how a loving God could allow suffering in the world. I used to debate with the fourth and fifth grade Sunday school teachers about the validity of the trinity.

          .But, it seems to me a viable faith needs both, objective evidence, and subjective experience of God’s presence. I’m sure you’ve read many of the orthodox Christian apologists. No argument toward Christian faith seems to me completely unassailable, but I think personally I would have even larger questions and intellectual doubts as an atheist. One thing I can sincerely share, Gary, I would never want to base my whole life in a fairy tale, just to somehow feel more comfortable. What would be the point?

          Think everyone has to find and choose their own path. Want to also add that I think we need to be very careful about judging the validity of other people’s subjective feelings and perceptions of faith. How can we fully know another person’s mind, or what God might be doing in their life?

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          1. You are correct, Rebecca. I cannot prove that someone’s invisible friend does not exist. However, I can demonstrate that the probability that dead people come back from the dead is very, very, very low. Therefore, when someone tells me that their invisible friend is a returned-from-the-dead, 2,000 year old man, whom I must choose to believe in as Lord and Master before I die or suffer unspeakable eternal consequences, I can be reasonably sure that they are wrong.

            If Christians believed in their invisible friend for their own benefit alone, the rest of us probably wouldn’t care. It is the fact that conservative and moderate Christians threaten the rest of us with terrible eternal consequences for not submitting to belief in their invisible friend that we find so offensive. It is for this reason that I consider your belief system a cult and why I fight against it as an ex-member.

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  3. I agree that it’s sad when the gospel is presented as nothing more than a fire escape out of Hell. I also agree that any decision made based in fear will probably not be lasting or certainly yield good fruit in someone’s life.

    Gary, we are at an impasse. Our experience and view of Christian faith are just very different.

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    1. Rebecca: Do you believe that persons who do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be punished in some fashion in the after-life?

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      1. Romans 8:38-39New American Standard Bible (NASB)

        38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

        Gary, would you punish your children because they happened to hold to wrong beliefs or opinions, or struggled with honest questions? What about those who have never even had an opportunity to hear the gospel? If the incarnation is a reality, who could be more merciful and just than God?

        A question that I have struggled with is concerning those who intentionally choose evil, who truly love darkness rather than light, so to speak. Is it an aspect of God’s love that he gives people freedom to decide to even be separated from Him, which is the essence of Hell? My husband, says no. He is a convinced universalist and feels that even the Hitlers and Stalins of this world will eventually be won by the love of God in Christ.

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        1. I hope you too are a universalist. I don’t believe that any living creature deserves eternal punishment.
          Peace and happiness to you, Rebecca.

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