If you look at the top of this blog, there is a blurb announcing to the world at large what one would find here, as one wanders about the internet. Specifically it says we are debunking “Evangelical Christianity.”
So all you Catholic Christians, and Fundamentalist Christians and Liberal Christians can breathe a sign of relief. We are not looking to address your beliefs here. Unless, of course, you consider yourself an Evangelical Catholic Christian or Evangelical Liberal Christian, in which case it would appear you are fair game.
But what if I don’t want to debunk Evangelical Christianity? For all I know, Evangelical Christianity is not the most correct depiction of what Christianity is—perhaps I would prefer to focus on what qualifies as the Most Correctest Christianity.
What method is available by which we determine the most correct form of Christianity?
Let me pause for a moment and mention the Burden of Proof. (Half the readers groan, and ALL the readers scratch their heads wondering how that cropped up here.)
I don’t mind having the Burden of Proof. But by its nature, atheism is a negative position, in that it asserts something does not exist. In order for me to even assume the Burden, I must first rely upon the theist to provide me an attribute of their God, or a description, by which I can then argue as to the possibility of such a creature with that attribute or description.
Probably all of us have been involved in the frustrating discussion of:
Skeptic: God can’t do ____.
Theist: But that is not the type of God I believe in.
Skeptic: O.K. Then God cannot be ____.
Theist: Strawman. Not my God, either.
While we can argue all day about who has the Burden of Proof, or what exactly is the Burden of Proof, or what Standard of Proof; in order to even get the discussion off the ground, we have to know at least something about this God.
For example, it would be completely useless for me to spend hours and days putting together a monstrous entry on how polytheism must be incorrect. Those who contribute would shrug, and most (if not all) who read here would equally shrug. That is not the type of God we seem to be discussing.
In order to narrow the field, for purposes of this blog, we focus on Evangelical Christianity. But even so, we often find ourselves discussing with Christians who vary widely regarding literalism, inerrancy, and evolution, let alone more specific doctrines such as election, atonement, age of accountability, and the salvation process. (And don’t even get started on the nature of hell, and who is going there!)
We see discussions, and even heated battles among those who call themselves true Christians as to who has the correct doctrine, who does not, and who is not even close. (I can imagine, in my mind, a set of brackets in which we pit various Christian beliefs against each other, narrowing it down to the “Sacred Sixteen” and eventually the “Final Forsooth” to end with the Champion in the Necessarily Correct and Accurate Article of Faith (NCAAF) tournament.)
Look, I am not saying that merely because we have these various beliefs, and denominational differences, we must assume that every one is wrong. Not at all! It is quite possible that some are far more likely to be true as compared to others. Even the Christians involved would tend to agree with that. The question is—how can we know? What method do we use to determine which is more accurate as compared to the other?
To understand the question, imagine I was interviewing Christians who held a variety of beliefs. I explained I was a researcher for a Hollywood Director. We are working on an upcoming film, and within this film the writers have decided to incorporate a Christian. But (being from Hollywood) we are uncertain as to what that means, so we are performing research and interviewing Christians in the hopes to accurately portray a Christian. We want the character to be as “real” of a Christian as only Hollywood can provide!
What would a Christian say, in order for us to understand and recognize, that their particular list of beliefs—THIS most accurately portrays a Christian? All too often, what we see in our discussions are mere recitals of what a particular Christian believes, and no basis (except one I will deal with in a minute) for why that particular belief is accurate.
We are told (for example) that clearly hell is merely an analogy for annihilation and there really is not an actual lake of fire. But the next Christian informs us that no…hell is an actual place of torture, but that it is not forever and a person will be provided an opportunity to repent. And that the first Christian was not the sort of Christian we should be listening to, if we want the “true” picture of Christianity.
Then a third Christian gives us their recital of their position on hell, that it is both a lake of actual fire, and that it is forever with no opportunity to repent. Further, if we want the most accurate picture of Christianity, we should not be listening to the first two Christians.
But how do I, as a researcher, utilize a method to determine which one is correct?
To emphasize the difficulty to a Christian—imagine you were the researcher. But instead of a Christian, the writers were including a Jewish character. How would you go about determining what is the most accurate depiction of Judaism? Is it Hasidic? Orthodoxy? Conservative? Reformed? Or what if you were to research for the most accurate depiction of a Muslim? What method could you use to determine the “most accurate” of the various sects?
Most likely, after hearing the various positions, each emphasizing their own validity, while equally debunking the other sects; you would fall on one of two swords:
1) Either pick the most innocuous, most common belief among the sects, in the hopes that by commonality, you are close; OR
2) Simply pick the most popular, since there really isn’t any method presented as to determine which is the most “real” or most “correct” form of Judaism or Islam.
Because there IS no such thing as a truly accurate depiction of a truly correct Jew or Muslim. Why is it any different when we view the various competing beliefs within Christianity?
Interestingly, the one basis most often used as to why a person’s particular belief is more likely correct as compared to another is common sense. Reasonableness. Oh, they will argue that it is based upon the Bible, but it is not just the Bible. One’s interpretation OF that Bible will cause different results. And each one is arguing that their interpretation is the most correct. Why? Because it is the most reasonable.
To some, it seems reasonable that all are doomed for hell, and God elected some out for salvation. Others find the concept of limited atonement completely unreasonable, and claim universalism. See, it is not the words of the Bible in which we see disagreement, but how those words are applied.
“Reasonableness” is interesting, because the very foundation of Christianity is based upon things that most would hold as non-reasonable. Expecting a dead person to come back to life is not what we would reasonably argue. The Trinity is not something we can reasonably grasp. A being that is 100% human and 100% God is unreasonable. God, speaking in spurts and starts for a period of 1000 years, then keeping quiet for 400 years then re-starting spurts and starts for 50 years, then quiet for 2000 years when it comes to writings does not make sense.
First we are told to take these items by faith. To, in essence, partially disengage our reasonableness. But once accepted, upon attempting to determine which doctrines are false, we are to fully engage our reasonableness. Why the change in method?
I was reading a blog elsewhere in which the writer criticized a movie for inaccurately portraying Christianity. This thought crossed my mind—if I was commissioned with the task of accurately portraying Christianity—the most correctest form of Christianity: what possible method could I use to explain to those I was answering that I had been able to determine it? Whether it was true or false—at least what I presenting was the closest thing to “true” Christianity that we can show?
For me, the clamor of voices all crying, “My doctrine; not the other person’s” is not a demonstration that they are all false. It is a demonstration that simply reciting what one believes is not a method by which we can determine which one is true. It is a demonstration that when “debunking” another person’s belief, most often the Christian uses logic, and reason and common sense. When I apply that method is when I come to the conclusion that the Abrahamic depiction of God, including Evangelical Christianity, is false.