Eight ways evangelicals are driving Americans to atheism

Why is that?

I recommend Paul Copan’s “Is God a Moral Monster?” on these and similar questions. The real issue is more often a matter of postmodern historical revisionism rather than historical realism. I’m all for honest inquiry clarifying the past, but very careful about that drive presuming to overturn it. Gregory would appear to not have been as cautious, as his argument is more broadly paradigmatic than focused on the history involved.

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I don’t. It’s a well-meaning but poorly executed apologetic, akin to a house built on sand. Its failings have been well documented in scathing reviews.

It seems to me this very response perfectly encapsulates what Jonathan_Burke quoted from Pete Enns’ observations: As an evangelical Christian you are fine with education and scholarship, as long as you can find some way to square it with doctrine. And if you can, you will use it as an apologetic tool to evangelize. But should some conflict arise between doctrine and the output of scholarship, a way will be found to dismiss it as bad scholarship. Most religious scholarship seems to be apologetic in nature. It is motivated for reasons of evangelism, as opposed to an intellectual pursuit for it’s own sake and no matter what it may reveal.


Thanks for the reference, Djordje. (By the way, is your name the Serbian equivalent of “George”?)

It seems to me that writer of the article, and apparently Gregory as well, thinks that the slaughter of the first born could not have happened, because God is good and a good God would not do such a thing. Thus, the historical narrative must be false. Isn’t that what it amounts to?

It strikes me as a dangerous principle to any Christian orthodoxy that claims to be based on the Bible, as opposed to a priori theologizing in the style of Leibniz. A good God, following that reasoning, would never have demanded the humiliation, torture, and sacrifice of a perfect Son as the price of forgiving mankind, and therefore the sacrificial atonement must never have happened. Why should the New Testament be immune to criticism of that kind if the Old Testament is not?

Not exactly. There is a difference between (1) allowing that the Biblical writers adopted the sort of freedom which we find in many ancient writings, even sober ancient historians, and therefore somewhat embellished a core of historical material with a pedagogical purpose in mind, and (2) allowing that the Biblical writers just made stuff up. As far as I can see, Djorde’s reading of Gregory of Nyssa has Gregory saying that the Scriptural writers just made stuff up.

If we take Gregory’s principle to the extreme (which I doubt Gregory could have done, without being kicked out of the Church as a heretic), we really don’t need to affirm anything historical in the Biblical narratives at all. We can just decide in advance, based on philosophical reasons, what a good God would be like, and then write our own stories about God, Moses, Jesus, etc. As long as they conform to the teaching that God is good, loving, etc., it doesn’t matter at all if they have any historical referent. The “spiritual” teaching is the only important thing, and the historical depictions are purely pedagogical. This is far from any orthodox Catholic or Protestant teaching I know of, and especially from those forms of Protestantism which make the Bible (as opposed to tradition) central to Christian faith. For a Bible-based Protestant, you don’t start from an a priori conception of God (derived from some philosophical/theological axiom system), and then hammer the Bible into shape until it produces the conception of God you like. That’s the exact opposite of Biblical Protestant procedure. The Biblicist will derive his conception of what God is like from the Bible; and therefore if the God of the Bible does not match some abstract idea of goodness postulated by some philosophers or theologians, so much the worse for those philosophers or theologians.

I doubt that Gregory of Nyssa was what we would now call a theological liberal, but already he seems to be accepting a principle which must inevitably lead to theological liberalism. This actually does not surprise me, as by his day the Orthodox Church was already many generations removed from any meaningful contact with Jews or Judaism, and very few Orthodox scholars could read Hebrew or thought it important to do so. They were happy to read the Bible in Greek and through the eyes of allegory, which was central to Classical literature but is almost completely absent from the Bible. They were so wrapped up in man’s heavenly destiny (the theme of Greek thinking) that they had trouble with the earthier parts of both Testaments. Not that I am attacking Greek philosophy in itself; far from it. But the best way to understand the Bible is not through a filter of late Hellenistic philosophy, whether Stoic or neo-Platonic. There are worthy Greek elements in Christian theology, but they are useful only when the Greek mindset does not override the Hebraic basis – which, it seems to me, is happening in these passages of Gregory of Nyssa. Whether that is typical of his thought, I cannot say. I’m commenting only on what has been presented here.


Drop the condescension. You have a B.A. in Classics; I have a Ph.D. in Religion from what was at the time the fifth-ranked doctoral program in North America. The history of Christian thought and the history of Biblical exegesis, including the historical-critical method and the alternatives to it, were all things I studied at a very high level in graduate school and afterward. Also, unlike yourself, I have taught religion in Catholic, Protestant, and secular institutions of higher education. I don’t need lectures from an almost complete autodidact in these areas.

If you want to address specific points, you may do so. But you are wasting everyone’s time here if you pretend (as you regularly pretended elsewhere) to be an oracle on theology and Biblical scholarship, when in fact you are merely a hobbyist in these fields. Just make your points, and stop trying to sound like the grand old man of theology and Biblical studies.

Yes, I am aware of all of them.

Yes, I’m fully aware of how much modern Churches have compromised with the principles of the Enlightenment.

Yes, I’m fully aware of it. I was studying thnetopsychism back around 1980, when you were either not yet born, or still running around in short pants.

It is nothing new that Anglicans rise to high rank in the mainstream Anglican churches with very little commitment to anything like traditional Christian doctrine. This is why so many Anglicans have broken away from the mainline Anglican churches and continued the original Anglican tradition which the mainstream churches have abandoned.

The main thing you miss, of course, is that if all of Christian tradition is negotiable, and the final standard of appeal is the Bible, then Christianity can only hold together if there is broad agreement across denominations and confessions on what the Bible teaches. And there isn’t. You would like to believe that there is, and that the “consensus” is pointing in the direction of your own Christadelphian beliefs, but in fact the situation today is virtually anarchic. And indeed, if you understood the trajectory of historical-critical scholarship at the deepest level, you would see that this must be the case, since the very conception of “Bible” with which Calvin and Luther could use as a club with which to beat down the Roman Church is rendered problematic by historical-critical approaches.

This is not to say that nothing can be learned from historical-critical scholarship, but in itself it recognizes no limiting principle, and has as a matter of historical fact acted as an acid, dissolving the foundations of Christian thought. If you took your historical-critical-inspired skepticism of mainline church tradition to the logical extreme, you would see that your own sectarian Protestant position cannot hope to survive it, and would have to go over to the side of the atheists here. Indeed, I regard their position as more logically consistent than your own.

There is also grovelling servitude to the “consensus” of Biblical scholarship. (Which doesn’t exist, but even if it did, it would be wrong for Christians to automatically defer to it. Christians of all people should be aware of the very worldly motivations which animate the majority of Biblical scholars, including those who are nominally Protestant or Catholic.)

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A Ph.D. in religion doesn’t even get you a discount at Starbucks. What a utterly useless degree. :sunglasses:

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When you ask questions which are explicit acknowledgements of your ignorance, you don’t get to complain about condescension when someone answers your questions and expresses surprise at your ignorance. You keep touting your alleged academic qualifications (which seem to change regularly, and which you can never prove), but your actual statements don’t reflect anything like the learning you claim to have received. This is the point; I have a BA in Classics and a Masters in information management, yet I know more about these subjects than you do.

I don’t believe you have any of the qualifications you claim, and I believe that’s the reason why you conceal your identity, and can’t provide evidence of any of your qualifications or even the name of your college. People who have the kind of education you do, typically don’t write like you. They’ve also published in scholarly literature, they’re well known, and they could hardly conceal their identity if they wanted to. I think you’re a complete fraud.

On the contrary, unlike you I repeatedly identify the fact that I am not a expert, and do not claim to be “an oracle on theology and Biblical scholarship”.

All of them! I doubt it. But let’s pretend you are. Why did you write as if you were ignorant of them?

So why did you write as if you were ignorant of these shifts?

So why did you write as if you were ignorant of these shifts?

Then why ask questions like " How is this different from any brand of Christian theology?"? You say " I think it would be impossible for church doctrine not to limit the possible conclusions of Biblical scholarship", but many churches don’t see it this way, and you seem completely ignorant of the fact.

I disagree on two points. Firstly Christianity has held together for centuries despite broad lack of agreement. Secondly mainstream critical scholarship is typically in far more agreement on what the Bible teaches than confessional commentators are.

No the situation is not virtually anarchic. I really don’t think you are remotely familiar with the current status of critical scholarship. I doubt you’re familiar with any scholarship after 1970. You don’t even use the historical critical method, and you repeatedly speak disparagingly of it.

So what?

Yes it does.

This is a laughable statement, which only exposes your theological fundamentalism.

Ludicrous slippery slope fallacy.

Irrelevant tu quoque fallacy. I note you didn’t attempt to address the point.

Worldly motivations! Well poisoning fallacy. You’re not only ignorant, you can’t even construct logically coherent arguments. You’re just another run of the mill fundamentalist without any scholarship, or knowledge of the relevant literature, who rejects evolution and whose theology is stuck in the medieval era.


That isn’t its purpose. :smile:


I have sat in graduate seminars on Hebrew Bible, and heard scores of papers at scholarly conferences on the Bible, at which both grad students and professors have sneered at the very idea of the Bible “teaching” anything. It is regarded by many as a sign of academic immaturity to look for any “teaching” in the Bible (as opposed to simply dismembering it to determine its hypothetical source documents). People who want to talk about what the Bible “teaches” are regarded as folks who belong off in some church setting somewhere, or in some denominational seminary, not in the academy. Apparently you haven’t had a very wide personal acquaintance with Biblical scholars and their attitudes. That probably comes from trying to teach yourself theology and Biblical studies by using the internet and by reading books, as opposed to studying under actual theologians and Biblical scholars and attending their conferences.

You mistake having contempt for certain developments for being ignorant of them.

What a joke! No fundamentalist place would hire me, even if I would want to work in such a place – which I wouldn’t.

You continue to completely misunderstand my theological position, because you work within a narrow set of categories involving black-and-white thinking. But this is typical of you: you can’t grasp nuanced positions on climate change, evolutionary mechanisms, and many other things. So you assume that if someone doesn’t capitulate to your conclusions, he must hold to some opposite extreme which you consider uninformed and irrational. This is bizarre, as you claim to have an undergrad degree in Classics; I’ve never met a Classics major who is as doctrinaire and as black-and-white in his thinking as you. They much teach Classics differently in Tasmania (or wherever it was you studied) than they do on the other side of the Pacific.

@Jonathan_Burke, @Eddie - please stop with the personal attacks about each other’s credentials or personal history and keep focused on the issues at hand, otherwise it will be better for us to close this thread.


20 posts were split to a new topic: The value of a theology degree

Yes, yes, it is.

If you want to simplify it. I don’t really have much time right now, but Gregory also quoted Ezekiel in support of allegorical reading of the stated event. He saw an obvious difference between the teachings of the prophets (particularly, Ezekiel), something he called rationality, and the above mentioned plague, he called that history. Really, I don’t think I can give justice to Gregory here. If you have time, I recommend reading Gregory’s ‘Commentary on the Song of Songs’ and ‘Life of Moses’ to get his whole vision.

Perhaps you might think so, but it’s a completely valid view in Eastern Orthodoxy. Most of us, however, do reject the view that Christ died so God could forgive mankind. Here’s our view:

The article is written by Fr. Al Kimel, quotations by Fr. Herbert McCabe.

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4 posts were split to a new topic: Atonement Models: Christus Victor, et al

Is their any evidence they took an allegorical reading to the exclusion of a historical reading? It seems that the two are not necessarily in conflict.


Origen certainly didn’t take seven days of creation literary. It’s possible, if not likely, that he believed in literal Adam, though:

For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally

As for Gregory, he didn’t go as far as to say that Exodus was ahistorical, but he did say that it wouldn’t be an issue if it was:

Do not be surprised at all if both things – the death of the firstborn and the pouring out of the blood – did not happen to the Israelites and on that account reject the contemplation which we have proposed concerning the destruction of evil as if it were a fabrication without any truth.

So, it’s possible that Origen believed in literal Adam and Gregory in literal Exodus.

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I don’t know what fundamentalists are like in Australia. I do know what they are like in North America. I’ve lived here all my life.

Very, very few of the fundamentalists I have met pay much attention “historic creeds and confessions.” Most of them belong to small sects (SDA, JW, Christadelphian, etc.) which reject much of historic Christian doctrine, or go to small congregational-model churches which have very little in the way of a denominational confession (compared with the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican etc. confessions). Most of them go to churches where at most one of the Creeds (the Apostle’s) is ever read in services, and often not even that. Some of them subscribe to a pan-denominational confession such as the Westminster, but even there, that is not a distinctive of fundamentalists, since some other Protestants (who might call themselves traditional or evangelical but not fundamentalist) also subscribe to the Westminster confession. More generally, fundamentalists tend be extreme “Bible-only” folks who have little use for tradition as such, hierarchy, learned theology, etc.; their attitude is “All I need is me and God and my Bible, and I can interpret it just fine without linguistic knowledge or theological training.”

On historical-critical method, I don’t know how broadly or loosely you are using the term, but fundamentalists who object to it usually see it (and it often has been used that way, in German, British, and American scholarship) as claiming that the Bible is a book whose composition and transmission has been riddled with human decisions and human errors, and thus is not one that can easily be seen as divinely inspired. And their reaction is entirely logical.

Of course, as I said, some historical-critical insights can be useful to people of faith. But no one who has spent as much time on the history of Biblical scholarship as I have can doubt that historical-critical study has often been employed to undermine Christian (and Jewish) faith. I know also of many Jews who lost their faith due to historical-critical scholarship regarding Mosaic authorship (and related concerns about the text).

Yes, most fundamentalists reject evolution. But their rejection, regardless of any scientific arguments they offer, is required by their method of reading Genesis. Since I don’t subscribe to that method, I am not bound to reject evolution. And I haven’t. You have failed to provide even a single statement of mine that rejects “evolution” understood as “descent with modification” (a definition Joshua accepts as a reasonable one).

I would not say that fundamentalists in principle (though often they do in practice) put “theology” ahead of science. Theology as a mere human construct, they give no authority to whatsoever; hence you own denomination’s rejection of so many cardinal tenets of the Church’s historic faith. But the Bible they regard as wholly inspired and without error. Therefore, any temporary conclusion of scientists that appears to them to contradict the Bible, they regard as erroneous. They reason that human beings, in trying to interpret nature, can make errors, but God in the Bible makes no errors. Again, this is a reasonable line of thought. Where I disagree with them is over their method of interpreting the Bible.

My question stands. I know of no theological position expressed in any denomination or confession which does not put at least some things beyond debate for those who subscribe to it. I know of no historical Christian group which says, “We will believe in the Bible wherever it leads us, even if it leads us to reject much of the historical Christian faith we learned in Sunday school from our parents, elders, and most revered pastors” – and consistently follows through with that program. You might be able to point to individuals who have done so, but for any sect, church, denomination, etc. to do so would be like playing Russian roulette. It’s a recipe for theological anarchy, as each individual church member takes the responsibility for doctrine solely into his own hands.

As you pointed out, though with a different purpose in mind, the history of Protestantism is largely a history of this anarchy, not a history of coming together. How many denominations and theologies were there in Luther’s day? And how many today? We know from the attitude of Luther and Calvin toward Anabaptists etc. that “pluralism” in Biblical interpretation was not an idea they upheld; nor did they think (as modern Americans often seem to think) that any truck driver who decides that he understands the book of Revelation (based on his understanding of King James English, and zero historical or linguistic study) should be allowed to publish, teach, or preach in Christian territories. They certainly maintained that the church had an authoritative function regarding doctrine, even if the way doctrine was arrived at was more Scripture-based than previously. But all of that is scrapped when the evangelical truck driver’s vision of Revelation is regarded as equally sound as the learned theologies of Luther, Calvin, etc. Neither Luther nor Calvin were “fundamentalists” in the current American sense of the term, though of course they were more conservative and traditional than many of their modern successors in Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and other churches which they directly or indirectly founded.

I agree, but the position of Origen is not necessarily the position of the Eastern Orthodox Church on all matters.

But he strongly suggests that it wasn’t, at least, in the passages you’ve provided.

Eastern Orthodoxy is dogmatically minimalist, and it doesn’t have a dogma concerning whether Adam was a literal first man or not. That’s why, in Orthodoxy, you’ll find more no-Adam theologians than anywhere else, save, perhaps, the Church of England.

He suggests that God-ordained murder of first born children is ahistorical, not entire Exodus.

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I’m not trying to be aggressive here, but I can’t see the difference between saying that something is “ahistorical” and that it is “a story that someone just made up.” And if one is entitled to reject the historicity of all parts of the Bible one finds theologically offensive by saying that they are “stories someone just made up,” I don’t see how that principle can be contained and limited to certain passages of the Old Testament. For example, many find the story of Jesus and the fig tree to be offensive. So can we conclude that the event never happened, that it was put in there only as a spiritual allegory of something or other? What principles does Gregory supply to make sure that denials of historicity don’t get out of hand?

I’m not blaming you personally for Gregory’s claims, but since you cited him, apparently with approval, I’m trying to probe a little deeper. Please don’t take this as a personal attack on you or on Orthodoxy (which, based on my non-expert acquaintance, I admire in many respects).