Sunday, August 06, 2017

Today, I wonder how believers in progress hold on to their "faith"

Several items attract my notice today:

- Today is, in the Christian calendar, the Feast of the Transfiguration, which recalls how Jesus became too bright to look at on the mountain with three of his disciples, when Moses and Elijah appeared with him.  The Feast of the Transfiguration is the day, 72 years ago, which the United States celebrated with a bomb on Hiroshima whose light was too bright to look at, in mockery of Jesus.  To this day, hardly an American "Christian" can be found that considers this mockery  of Jesus improper. 

- James Baldwin published a letter to Angela Davis in the January 7, 1971 issue of the New York Review of books.  Can you read this and believe that the American people have learned anything or made any progress in the past 46 years?

- I agreed a couple of months ago to do a review of a book by the pastor of a house church in Orange County entitled "Untangling Jesus."  I just can't bring myself to review it in detail.  He's right about one thing - the Christians of the United States have abandoned the real Jesus to worship their image of Jesus in conformity with American nationalism.  But he himself is quite explicit in judging the Bible by his own notion of Jesus in the same way, and even invents contradictions in the Bible that are just not there.  He agrees in principle with their syncretism, just not in detail - arguing about whether Christian doctrine should be harmonized with the worship of Molech, or whether we should choose Baal Melkart instead. 

This shiny new doctrine is indistinguishable from the same old apostasy from the Bible preached in Germany for the past 300 years by such as Graf and Wellhausen and their later disciples such as Rudolf Bultmann - the exciting new doctrine of "Higher Criticism."  We know well what that did to  German Christianity, and where that ended up, and how really new it is.

If you don't believe in Jesus, that's fine.  I think you're mistaken, but it's a reasonable position.  But if you claim to believe in Jesus while denying what he said and believed about the Hebrew scriptures - the law and the prophets - why pretend to believe in him?  Why not just say frankly that you are more impressed with your own reasoning and that of scholars of this present world, the world which in its wisdom crucified him, and that Jesus really isn't Lord?  Isn't the whole idea of being a disciple that I think the master is smarter than I am, and that when there is a disagreement between him and me, I  and more likely to be mistaken than he is?  That doesn't mean I shouldn't argue with Jesus, because the real problem may be that I misunderstand him - but, still, to argue sensibly with Jesus, his disciple must think that he knows what  he's talking about.

Isn't that the required minimum in humility?  Does anyone have to be a scholar to figure out that if Jesus is Lord then I ought to find out how I might be mistaken instead of blowing him off with some patronizing flattery or twisting his words to make him agree with me, when we don't agree about something?   

- Of course it has always been the priority of American Christianity not to lose the respect of the world, so if homosexuality becomes respectable to the world and it becomes disreputable to hold to the biblical position that the Christian church has held to for 2000 years, then the required intellectual gymnastics will be performed.  If we see how Virginia Baptists went in the 17th century from forbidding membership to slave owners to enthusiastically supporting the institution, is there anything new about Christians in America being eager to corrupt themselves in order to fit in, and to position themselves to lord it over the rest of the American world?  How has that changed in the past 400 years?

And you still believe in progress?