Liberal Bible Scholar Explains Why His More Nuanced Version of Christianity is Rational

The Evidence For Jesus' Resurrection, Part 5: Fact (3) The Postmortem  Appearances To The Disciples

Jeff Siker, New Testament scholar: …[Referring to his training at Yale] In retrospect I would say that increasingly I came to see my understanding of biblical interpretation as a conversation between the biblical authors and modern faith in seeking to discern God’s presence and the leading of God’s Spirit in both personal faith and the life of the church.

Why do I still believe, even knowing the same historical-critical information that Bart [Ehrman] knows?  I think there are several reasons.  First, I never felt betrayed or lied-to by the church in the way that Bart did about the nature of the Bible.  Second, my educational experience – while conservative – was not fundamentalist.  Third, I was able to shift from a literal reading of the biblical text and the Christian story to a critical reading of the biblical text and Christian story in a way that did not shatter my faith, but deepened it.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, whereas Bart’s view of human suffering calls into question the very notion of a loving God (and understandably so), my own view of human suffering does not see God as the problem (God as either powerless or uncaring).  Instead, for reasons that are difficult to pin down, I am most struck by what I experience as the graciousness of God.  In the end my faith rests on the firm belief in a God who brings life from death, possibility from impossibility. …In light of [Jesus’] ministry I believe that we are called to embrace human suffering with the hope and faith that God will transform such an embrace into new life.

Gary: If today, 500 villagers in a remote area of a Third World country claim to have received an appearance by a dead person at the same time and place, would you believe them? I doubt it. You would most likely chalk up their experience to their gullible, superstitious imaginations. Yet you believe two thousand year old texts written by anonymous authors, whom the majority of scholars do not believe were eyewitnesses, alleging the very same thing.

Is that rational?

On the topic of global, massive human suffering: If your all-knowing, all-powerful god exists, he allows 17,000 children under the age of five to starve to death each and every day. If a human ruler behaved in such a way, would you continue to respect this person, let alone love and worship him?

You may be extremely intelligent and educated, but you are not using good critical thinking skills in this one, very important area of your life. Abandon your comforting superstitions, my friend. Embrace rational thinking.

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End of post.

23 thoughts on “Liberal Bible Scholar Explains Why His More Nuanced Version of Christianity is Rational

  1. I think it’s an attitude of – there is no harm in believing a liberal version of Christianity, and it gives comfort and reassurance, so as long as nothing traumatic occurs that would cause me to question it, I’m fine with not worrying about whether the ancient claims were true and the authors knew what they were talking about, and and fine with creating a god that is what I want him to be.

    Well hey, if it were like a hobby – collecting antiques or something, I’d say fine, do whatever you like, and whatever you need to help you through life.

    But it seems some liberal Christians still want to engage in debate about truth claims about what Jesus was really like, and what God is really like, and what the authors of ancient texts really meant. That’s unfortunate because they then have to assume a watered down form of fundamentalism – ignoring evidence to prop up an ancient book’s stories.

    A good question to ask oneself is if you are wrong, would you want to know it, even if it’s uncomfortable and would shake up your world. It’s what made me question my own Christianity to the point of feeling I had to leave it.

    In the case of liberal Christianity, as with its fundamentalist brethren, it seems the answer to that question is no.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That was a very good and interesting video. I”m able to address some of these concerns raised from my perspective.

        I think it’s true that people can be simply culturally conditioned into faith, but I don’t know that this is true for everyone. Obviously, all opinions can not be equally true if they are saying contradictory things. But, it doesn’t follow that all are equally false either. I think there’s really a lot of commonality, and ways that God connects with people in every culture through their faith. He is not limited merely by belief. I think He also knows the intention of someone’s heart and mind toward truth. There’s Scripture to this effect.

        But, I do think if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a reality than this negates aspects of other faiths that would reject or teach contrary to this. However, CS Lewis believed that God could lead people through other faiths to focus on aspects of belief that are more in line with the teaching of Christ. I feel like that’s entirely possible too.

        My undergraduate major was cultural anthropology focused on comparative religion so this is right up my alley. I loved it.

        I would say that people should open their hearts to the love of God and find a path that seems right and speaks to them. I trust God to lead all who seek Him to greater and greater truth and light over time. This is a faith statement. I think the fear of Hell is a very bad motivator.

        Also, I honestly don’t feel that science has disproven God or shown us that we don’t need God. I feel like science and religion are often addressing different issues altogether. In my own life, I don’t feel as if I have to choose between science and reason or my faith in Jesus Christ. My mind doesn’t think in that kind of either-or type of paradigm.

        Anyway, these are my thoughts. I feel that if the intention of the video was to attempt to show Christians the fallacy of their exclusive beliefs or to be persuasive toward atheism, it might be more effective with someone who had been indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity. But, it would be much less persuasive for someone who is a more progressive Christian believer and open to God’s work in other cultures as well anyway.

        I greatly enjoyed it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Dear Becky,

          Thank you for offering your perspectives so generously. One of my posts has an unusual title: The Quotation Fallacy “💬”. It has so far garnered about 230 comments and liked by nearly 680 bloggers, even though it is so extensive and academic that very few readers will ever have the patience and/or intellect to digest it in its entirety. In this said post, I have quoted the following:

          For those who do believe, no proof is necessary.
          For those who don’t, no proof is possible.

          We have something in common. Having been multidisciplinary for decades, I have had the good fortune of learning about cultural anthropology. I still own the excellent textbook entitled “Cultural Anthropology” by William A Haviland from University of Vermont. Mine is the ninth edition published in 1999 (ISBN10: 0155082434 and ISBN13: 9780155082434). The first edition was published in 1975.

          In some of my posts, I have endeavoured to give a very good inkling of the kind of society that humans might be heading towards. Looking into 50 years into the future, here is an entry in my cultural anthropology journal entitled “🎧 Facing the Noise & Music: Playgrounds for Biophobic Citizens 🏗🌁🗼”, published at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/facing-the-noise-music-playgrounds-for-biophobic-citizens/

          As you can discover in the said post, there will be plenty of far-reaching ramifications in multiple domains of human life, some of which are irreversible.

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            1. Dear Becky,

              Please be informed that you might need to use a desktop or laptop computer with a large screen to view the rich multimedia contents available for heightening your multisensory enjoyment at my blog, which could be too powerful and feature-rich for iPad, iPhone, tablet or other portable devices to handle properly or adequately.

              In addition, since my blog contains advanced styling and multimedia components plus animations, it is highly recommended to read my posts and pages directly in my blog so that you will be able to see and experience all of the refined and glorious details. Hence, it is prudent to refrain from viewing my blog in the WordPress Reader, which tends to ignore or strip away some styling and formatting components, and also fails to display animations, all of which are aplenty in my posts and pages, which will look very different and even improper or amiss in the WordPress Reader.

              I would like to wish you and all of the readers here a very happy New Year. May you find 2021 very much to your liking and highly conducive to your writing, reading, thinking and blogging!

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      2. Very good video. The creator of it might have considered adding a few seconds about how a world map of science is uniform for the most part, but a religious map tends to cluster in geographic regions, as there is no way for a religion to dispeove another, so people tend to believe the dominant religion of their culture (or parents ).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe I haven’t worded this in the right way? Are you assuming that in examining the evidence understanding what you and more progressive Biblical scholars know that he would come to the same conclusion relating to the truth of Christian faith? But, that he would just somehow choose to believe anyway, not even caring if he was wrong? Equally sincere people can take ahold of the results of scholarship and interpret evidence differently.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, Becky! At last you are beginning to understand or at least ‘get it’. This is exactly what so many xians do. Even you.
      Indoctrination is a real bitch, isn’t it?
      In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary they simply ignore it and rather choose to have faith(sic) in the bible, interpret it so it fits with their personal wish list and ignore all the icky bits. Because it’s obvious that Yahweh in his Jesus disguise wouldn’t really order genocide and regulate human slavery and sanction rape and incest or order homosexuals to be stoned (and this doesn’t mean being forced to smoke a joint by the way, either) or witches to be burned.
      I mean, that’s simply barbaric and no god of ‘mine’ would ever do these horrible things.
      After all, the bible is the insidious … sorry, typo … inspired Word of God, is it not?

      Blind and wilfully ignorant indoctrinated hypocrites.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, of course I understand. How dare you!
          Please don’t patronise me. Nothing get my hackles up and likely to cause a sever outburst more than some thick as two short planks delusional Christian telling me I donpt understand!
          You are indoctrinated and refuse to exercise critical thinking whereas I , and the majority of those who visit blogs like Gary’s do.

          I do wonder, though, how much is indoctrination and how much is simply wilful ignorance on your part?

          Probably a de-convert like Gary or nan or Zoe will be able to explain this part better. I think I shall ask them.
          Might eve be worth a post?
          Let me think on it.

          Maybe if it really is all indoctrination I might be able to afford you a little more pity?

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          1. Ark, I didn’t mean this in an insulting kind of way. I just think our minds reason and think differently. You are supposing my faith is all due to blind indoctrination or willful ignorance on my part. I don’t agree. We have to let go of the conversation, Ark. In a way, it is like endlessly circling the Mulberry bush. 😊Appreciate you engaging with me, Ark.

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            1. You are supposing my faith is all due to blind indoctrination or willful ignorance on my part

              That you don’t agree is to be expected, as is the fact you did not supply an answer to what you consider is the alternative to the other two.
              Furthermore, If you actually did agree to either or both it would mean you are, in fact, using critical thinking skills, and if that were the case you would be on your way to de-converting.

              We have to let go of the conversation,

              Oh, please. I implore you, don’t stop on my account.
              I have been informed It is conversations/dialogue such as these that feature on more widely read forums that cause a spike in people deconverting.
              So , while that is not my primary objective for writing it certainly is a bonus!
              Maybe if you were actually able to elucidate your position and faith so that it came across perfectly rational and backed it up with bona fide evidence you could be the ”designated champion” for your side.
              Imagine the good you could do if you were able to really put forward a knock ’em dead case for Christianity?
              Wouldn’t that be something?

              Of course, I am perhaps the last person to ask regarding cause of belief /religious positions as I never bought into the delusion. Why not consider someone such as Ben or Nan?
              Their responses will resonate a lot better as they have been on the side of the fence you currently occupy?

              Like

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