Rev. Tom Honey: How Could God Have Allowed the Tsunami?

See this Link. Notice how thoughtful Christians must continually retreat in the face of the evidence? His conclusions may be tomorrow's orthodoxy. But as Christians retreat to a distant God, remember that a distant God is no different than none at all!

Thanks to Scott for this link.

45 comments:

Jason said...

Is Rev. Tom Honey the mouthpiece for all Christianity?

Steven Carr said...

Tom Honey is not the mouthpiece for all Christianity.

But where can you find Christians who claim the following from Psalm 89 is true?

O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.

But where is the evidence that this alleged god rules surging seas and stills waves?

Jason said...

Since he's not the mouthpiece for Christianity, then let's not treat him as if he's speaking for Christianity.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason, I'm sorry but you are an idiot! Who would ever think that Honey speaks for all Christianity? No intelligent person would even think that. So why do you have to counter a suggestion that no intelligent person would even consider. And even if you had a point are you saying that YOU speak for Christianity, or that you know who does? I have been reading what you write and let me tell you that most Christians would claim that you do not speak for them. Sheesh. Take a college class and come back after you grow up.

2:39 PM, March

Jason said...

John, I asked a simple question. No need to get so upset.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason, it just seems to me that you are the Christian answer man. You think you have an answer for everything. No one is that smart!

Jason said...

I have answers but I certainly don't know everything. Would be nice though.

Evan said...

Jason:

Oatmeal Cookie Bars

INGREDIENTS

* 2 1/2 cups dates, pitted and chopped
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 2/3 cup water
* 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
* 3/4 cup shortening
DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
2. To make Filling: In a saucepan over low heat, combine dates, water, white sugar, and lemon juice. Heat for about 8 minutes, or until thick. Set aside to let cool.
3. To make Pastry: In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats and salt. Mix until well blended. Add in shortening until mixture forms into coarse crumbs.
4. Press half of pastry mix into pan. Cover with date mixture and spread remaining pastry mix over the top.
5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on wire rack before cutting.

Brother Crow said...

Jason, there's an old confederate cemetery about 2 miles south of The Rock, GA, on The Rock-Yatesville Road. Now...you know everything. By the way, what do you think of the tsunami? The rev put his 2 cents in, what about you? Was this part of God's plan? What is your response to Psalm 89. Or Sodom and Gomorrah? It certainly seems God is capable of something like that.

Duke said...

In point of fact, I don't think Rev. Honey (and how does a man with a name like "Reverend Honey" not become a 1970s-era pimp?) is a spokesman for all Christianity, because he's not a spokesman for Christianity at all. Someone who doesn't believe the bible isn't a Christian, and it's perfectly clear the bible from the bible that God will drown millions of people if they make him angry enough. Or send bears to maul them. Or burn them in fire. Whatever's at hand, really.

Reverend Honey is a secular humanist and possibly and atheist; he just knows he's have to quit his cushy job with the C of E if he said it.

Jim Holman said...

duke writes: Someone who doesn't believe the bible isn't a Christian, and it's perfectly clear the bible from the bible that God will drown millions of people if they make him angry enough. Or send bears to maul them. Or burn them in fire.

Well, that is the modern American fundamentalist view of Christianity. But it is only one view. Even some early Christians rejected that view. For example, one commentator writing about St. Isaac of Syria, from the 7th century, wrote

Thus, Isaac claims, one should not interpret literally those Old Testament texts where the terms wrath, anger, hatred and others are used of the Creator. If such anthropomorphic terms occur in Scripture, they are used in a figurative sense, for God never does anything out of wrath, anger or hatred: everything of that sort is far removed from His Nature. We should not read everything literally as it is written, but rather see within the bodily exterior of the Old Testament narratives the hidden providence and eternal knowledge of God.

There are all sorts of views of Christianity, and no reason to assume that the fundamentalist view is the only one, or the correct one. Frankly, most modern Jews do not believe that the Bible is "inerrant."

Rejecting inerrancy is only a problem for two groups:

a. religious believers who do believe in inerrancy, and

b. opponents of religion who want to use the stories of the Bible to "stick it" to believers.

I don't know which group you belong to.

Bacchus Veritas said...

Christians rejecting Christians.

Who really is a Christian anymore, anyways? It has become fashionable to denounce fellow Christians who have different views, but the same conclusions. You reject him for having different views, but do you reject everyone else as well? Countless Christians do not believe the literal creation story but believe in the sanctity of Christ, are they not Christians? What about Catholics whose views are clearly different (or dare I say original)?

Then I ask, who is the mouthpiece for Christianity? Pat Robertson? The Pope? Rev Wright? Because Jesus clearly isn't.

pwoon said...

"God will drown millions of people if they make him angry enough."

The question is " is he/she/it a good god?". In Christians' eyes, yes. Whatever your god does is good even if in anger he/she/it kills. But that in itself is a contradiction.

From Wikipedia:

In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.


So how can you state that if your god gets angry he'll kill hundreds of thousands of people, and yet his son is telling us to do otherwise?

Jason said...

Brother Crow,

I don't know if God caused the tsunami. No one can definitively know.

Evan said...

If the word Christian means anything anymore it should at least mean that the person believes that a man Jesus was literally raised from the dead by God in the 1st century CE in Palestine.

If you don't believe that I think you are probably either a Deist, a Pantheist or a Panentheist.

I doubt when he is in the privacy of his own thoughts that Rev. Honey (god that really is a pimp name!) believes that a man Jesus was raised from the dead and I agree with the people who thus doubt his Christianity.

And Jim -- 47% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10000 years old so for you to claim that biblical inerrancy is some minor position that nobody holds is simply false as it relates to the US. It is true that in Europe the percentage is much more in line with what we would hope, but it's still much higher than 10% meaning it is at least a significant minority view.

Jason said...

Evan,

I have some extra delicious oatmeal cookie bars. Sounds like you want some.

Jim Holman said...

evan writes: If the word Christian means anything anymore it should at least mean that the person believes that a man Jesus was literally raised from the dead by God in the 1st century CE in Palestine.

Let me put it this way: Bart Ehrman says that we shouldn't speak about early Christianity as "Christianity" in the singular, but as "Christianities," in the plural. I think we are in a similar situation today. I see today that there are at least three "Christianities:

1) Bible-based Christianity, often with belief in an inerrant Bible.

2) church-based Christianity, in which the basic "fact" of Christianity is not the Bible, but the church, in which the Bible is only one aspect. (Thinking in particular of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.)

3) rational Christianity, in which believers accept modern science, philosophical morality, and modern biblical criticism.

In version 3), believers interpret "resurrection" in different ways -- as a spiritual event, or as a symbolic or metaphorical event. Even if they accept the resurrection as a literal, bodily event, that doesn't mean that they adopt a literalistic approach to the rest of the Bible.

I'm just saying that there is a wide diversity of belief among Christians, and thus we have to be careful not to tar everyone with the same brush. Obviously the Rev. Honey is an example of that diversity.

evan: And Jim -- 47% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10000 years old so for you to claim that biblical inerrancy is some minor position that nobody holds is simply false as it relates to the US.

I'm not saying that it is a minority position -- obviously it is not -- but that it is only ONE position.

Duke said...

Jim Holman said

Rejecting inerrancy is only a problem for two groups:

a. religious believers who do believe in inerrancy, and

b. opponents of religion who want to use the stories of the Bible to "stick it" to believers.


Well, I'm in category "b", as far as it goes, although I wouldn't say "stick it" to believers. It's more "make them stay honest," at least as I see it.

That's really that simple. I don't see honest middle ground between "the bible is the word of god, and the sole set of instructions for all time" and "the bible is an ancient book of myths, no more relevant to the modern day than Homer". If you don't believe that the bible is absolutely true -- as Reverend Honey apparently doesn't -- then what are you doing when you reference it? Mining it for good ideas? Finding the particular parts that match up with the view that happen to be popular in the modern day?

There are two problems with this. First off is the inherent weakness of this kind of position, because it palms off the actual morality -- the good ideas "Christians" pretend to find in the bible -- and ignores any actual thought behind that morality.

The second, and far more dangerous problem, is that that kind of "Christian" will always lose an argument to the real Christian, because the real Christian has the actual truth of the book behind them. That's why Fred Phelps is so infuriating to "Christians", because in their hearts, the "Christians" know he's right, at least as far as scripture goes. It's the same with the Christians who supported the slave trade and the pogroms and massacres of the Jews, Cathars, Muslims and whoever else. Both of these activities are supported in scripture, far more than any "we are all precious in God's site" claptrap.

Just to put this in a nutshell, if Reverend Honey doesn't think the bible the only true and revealed word of a living, almighty God, why was he up there on the stage at TED? Why not get an expert on Homer to discourse on the loving arms of Hera? Why not get Classical scholar to discuss the nature of the Satyricon or any of the other dozens of Hellenic and Roman-era novels we know of?

Duke said...

bacchus veritas wrote:

Countless Christians do not believe the literal creation story but believe in the sanctity of Christ, are they not Christians?

I'd have to say that no, they're not Christians, because they don't have any sort of coherent belief system.

Think about it, without the Fall from Eden, Original Sin, and the separation from God that it entails, what, exactly, was God trying to do with the sacrifice of Christ? It's rather like a stage magician, top hat, white tie, tails, who put his lovely assistant into the box and then cuts her in half with a chainsaw, only to open the box up to reveal the two halves of her body, the guts spilling out like diarrhea. Why, the audience is forced to ask, were we subjected to that farcical atrocity?

The closest the pimpadelic Reverend Honey comes to a coherent Christology is that God incarnates -- either through Jesus directly, or through us indirectly -- in order to feel our suffering.

Think about that. Just stop for a moment to think about that. All the uncounted quadrillions of deaths, of humans, of animals, of everything was all just a stage play, a farce so that God can feel suffering. He's reduced the creator of the entire cosmos to a Emo kid who cuts his on arms to feel anything.

If there's a better understanding of a Christ that doesn't follow a literal Adam, I've yet to encounter it.

Duke

M. Tully said...

jim holman wrote…

“Well, that is the modern American fundamentalist view of Christianity. But it is only one view. Even some early Christians rejected that view.”

Jim, this leads me to two questions. One, how does an omniscient god allow his sentiments to be recorded in a way that would have so many different interpretations? Is it a test? Is this god is not truly omniscient? Or is it that an understanding of what was written in scripture isn’t important to this god?

Two, how does one decide what take to literally or what to interpret as a metaphor? Is it based on one’s feelings? If so, how can any one interpretation be judged to be more or less correct than any other? Or is it based on some perfect code? If so, why has this perfect code not been fully promulgated so that all could know truth?

By denying inerrancy, Christians are faced with three choices. Either their god is not an omniscient perfect entity or the god is truly unknowable or the god does not exist. In any of the three scenarios it seems to me to be a terrible waste of resources to expend energy on it. It also, and more importantly, means that anyone attempting to use religion as a reason to dictate the actions of others is in a position of extreme hypocrisy as they could be very wrong for a host of reasons.

Bacchus Veritas said...

Duke: I'd have to say that no, they're not Christians, because they don't have any sort of coherent belief system.

I lose nothing when a Christian rejects other Christians. No longer is accepting Christ the sole way to Heaven. Fine by me. So, how many "Christians" actually meet your standards? What percent of "God's creation" worldwide actually make it to Heaven? So, you are telling me that in your view, only literalists, the small percent there are, get their salvation?

I am glad you were quick to call someone out for not being the "mouthpiece for all Christianity" because most Christians probably do not feel you are their mouthpiece either. I would think someone of your faith would leave the judging to your god.

DB said...

Bible Literalists are my favorites. No one is good enough to be a Christian to them. Good thing God judges humanity and not them.

Kevin H said...

Tom Honey makes some excellent points. He recoils, as I do, at simplistic religious answers that become, for all practical purposes, orthodoxy.

He recoils, as I do, at arbitrarily connecting the circumstantial dots and claiming to absolutely discern the hand of God ("God gave me the perfect parking lot just in time for the sale!").

It is perfectly appropriate for a Christian to feel anguish and anger in the face of profound evil. And in those moments, hillbilly theology is all the more glaring.

In tsunami-moments, I can rehearse the theodicies with the best of them. But it still hurts like hell.

Kevin H

Jim Holman said...

duke writes: The second, and far more dangerous problem, is that that kind of "Christian" will always lose an argument to the real Christian, because the real Christian has the actual truth of the book behind them.

What I find so interesting about this discussion is that so many opponents of fundamentalist Christianity are themselves, in a significant sense, fundamentalists.

What I mean is that both the fundamentalists and many of their opponents believe that the only possible valid reading of the Bible is a literalist reading. It's just that the fundamentalist believe that the Bible is true, and their opponents do not.

duke: Just to put this in a nutshell, if Reverend Honey doesn't think the bible the only true and revealed word of a living, almighty God, why was he up there on the stage at TED?

Because in the tradition of the liturgical churches, the Bible is only one part of the faith, not the be-all and end-all. Remember, the very early Christians had no Bible, and it was literally centuries before the issue of the canon was largely settled. And no one saw anything wrong with that. Even as late as the time of Martin Luther the issue of the canon was debated.

Under your line of reasoning, early Christianity was not even possible, because they didn't have an inerrant, fully-canonical Bible available.

This whole thing of the "inerrant" Bible being the entire foundation of Christianity is really a relatively modern concept. The early church fathers weren't stupid, and they were completely aware that the gospel accounts contain contradictions and other significant differences. Nonetheless, they included four gospels, warts and all.

duke: Why not get an expert on Homer to discourse on the loving arms of Hera?

I think perhaps you underestimate the power of symbol, myth, and metaphor in religious texts. Something can be true in a metaphorical sense without being true in a literal sense. For example, would the parable of the Good Shepherd be "more true" if there really was some dude out looking for a sheep?

When humans want to write about things that are really important, sometimes they write non-fiction. But many times they write stories. In fact, stories can often communicate human truth even more powerfully than non-fiction.

For example, would you rather read a one-sentence exhortation saying "be brave, fight for the good, resist evil, be loyal to your friends," or would you rather watch the movie Star Wars -- even though the movie is obviously "false?"

Evan said...

For example, would you rather read a one-sentence exhortation saying "be brave, fight for the good, resist evil, be loyal to your friends," or would you rather watch the movie Star Wars -- even though the movie is obviously "false?"

It depends. If the majority of people in my local area, my family, and most of my friends thought Star Wars was literally a true story, it would take a lot of the metaphorical power out from it.

Look.

If you believe that fundamentalism is wrong, then you are criticizing the wrong blog. But there are people who comment on this blog that believe the earth is less than 10000 years old. We agree with you that fundamentalism is wrong, help us convince them.

If you believe that the Bible is full of fairy tales, then you are criticizing the wrong blog. There are commenters on this blog that believe that Jesus went up to heaven in the clouds. We agree with you that the Bible is full of fairy tales, help us convince them.

If you believe that the best way for mankind to get into the future with maximal benefit to the world and to itself is to jettison old ways of thinking that allow needless suffering and death to take place, then you are criticizing the wrong blog. There are commenters on this blog who think that prayer for the sick is good for them. Help us convince them not to do this, because we agree with you.

There's nothing fundamentalist about skepticism. We're more than happy to sort out the metaethics that the Bible may or may not show (although I think even as a metaethical book the Bible fails to accomplish anything remotely as good as its adherents suggest). But you act as if we are doing this in a context of widespread agreement on the fictivity of the Bible. There is no such widespread agreement, and therefore a rigid, literal reading of the Bible must be attacked until that agreement comes forward.

Imagine trying to discuss the major philosophical ideas of the Plato's cave story with people who believed it was literally true. Imagine trying to sort through the story of Odysseus and Poseidon's enmity on an allegorical level with people who were afraid to take Poseidon's name in vain.

There are more than enough real fundamentalists. You are disingenuous to suggest that because we are arguing against the majority view of Christians that we are somehow just exactly like they are.

Scott said...

Kevin:Tom Honey makes some excellent points. He recoils, as I do, at simplistic religious answers that become, for all practical purposes, orthodoxy.

But he does much more than that.

He questions our ability to know God's nature. He's unable to accept the existence of God who has the ability to act, but fails to take action in the face of the tsunami.

He's willing to say "I don't know", instead of trying to harmonize the obvious problems of God's omni traits with the world around us.

To claim we can know God's nature, in spite of what we now know about the world around us, is naive at best and dangerous at worse.

Duke said...

bach. verit. wrote

So, you are telling me that in your view, only literalists, the small percent there are, get their salvation?

Well, seeing as how I'm an atheist, I'd say none of them got their salvation; that they got was an excellent excuse to puff themselves up and order the massacre of people who disagreed with them.

I am glad you were quick to call someone out for not being the "mouthpiece for all Christianity" because most Christians probably do not feel you are their mouthpiece either. I would think someone of your faith would leave the judging to your god.

"My faith"? Oh yes, you thought I was a fundy when you wrote this, and I can understand your mistake, because I am making an argument most often made by fundamentalists, who, for all their faults, are actually concerned with what their God says, rather than what makes them feel good.

Think about it: why are you so concerned with defending the Christian brand name against me and my attempts to enforce some orthodoxy on it? If Christianity doesn't have a hot-line to God in the form of an inerrant bible, why is it important enough to talk about, or even keep alive?

It's not a source for morality (since, by picking and choosing what you believe in the text, you're not actually using it as source for anything). It's not a good source for tying together people in fellowship (since, as you've demonstrated, the slightest comment about it causes hurt feelings). It's not even a source of clerical-magic-style metaphysical power (since prayer completely ineffective).

Why be a Christian if you don't think it's true?

Duke said...

Under your line of reasoning, early Christianity was not even possible, because they didn't have an inerrant, fully-canonical Bible available.

Not really; "early Christianity" was just another mystery religion, vying for converts and trying to tell the most interesting, entertaining story. It was, in essence, the Trekkies. The question is, why should we now care about what they did? It's fairly obvious that they didn't come up with a particularly good story or set of beliefs. Look at the Albigensian Crusade if you want to see what they produced. Look at the fact that Christianity hasn't managed to convince the majority of the people in the world of their doctrine, despite being commanded to by their scriptures (or is the great commission open to debate as well?) Look at how poorly Christianity has managed to survive, with sects splintering out from the living churches and stagnation from the orthodox ones.

Perhaps we should...

Remember something can be true in a metaphorical sense without being true in a literal sense? Yes, but just highlights Christianity's failings as a system of metaphors. The only reason we think the bible is so wonderful is the Christians destroyed all the competing texts. Look at the explosion of creativity that occurred when people stopped looking to the bible as their sole source of inspiration. It was called the Renaissance for a reason; it was a re-birth of human creativity, after all.

If you think their are parts of the bible that are good poetry or contain good moral lessons, great. Let's rip those out, put them in a book with the Tao Te Ching and use that. If you think ripping the bible apart is offensive, please tell me why. If you think it isn't offensive but you don't do it, please tell me why not.

For example, would you rather read a one-sentence exhortation saying "be brave, fight for the good, resist evil, be loyal to your friends," or would you rather watch the movie Star Wars -- even though the movie is obviously "false?"

Now, would you rather watch Star Wars or that disgusting snuff film The Passion of the Christ? The immense outwelling of support for the latter shows that it's actually what Christians believe (at least as far as I can say), but as far as I can see, even the first trilogy of Star Wars (Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith) contains far more actual thought, morals and merit than TPOTC.

If Christianity wishes to have a place at the table of discussion, it's going to have to bring a nicer side dish than... well, than Christianity.

Duke said...

Kevin H. writes:

Tom Honey makes some excellent points.

Really? I won't disagree with you that the pimpalicious Reverend Honey might make good points in some settings, just that he failed to make any of them in the TED video.

I don't mean to be overly catty, and if I've offended you, please accept my apologies, but the Reverend Honey (pimpful be his holy name) is the single worst TED speaker I've ever seen. Even that woman who had the stroke and felt the mystical experience from it was better!

First, look at his attitude. He's completely unenthusiastic about his talk. He speaks in a droning monotone designed to avoid sticking in the hearer's mind and instead slide through and out without registering.

Second, try to discern his actual subject. By his own admission, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Am I wrong on this? Does it seem absurd to have someone give a talk who not only doesn't have the answers, but doesn't even know what the question are? Or even where to find the questions? Or even how to recognize the questions once we do find them?

And it's not like the ever-loving Reverend Honey is the first person to face this dilemma. He's standing on the shoulders of two thousand years of giants, the best minds of their times (at least those who were permitted write their thoughts down), and all he can give us is that pablum?

He recoils, as I do, at simplistic religious answers that become, for all practical purposes, orthodoxy.

I hate to harp on this again, but (if you're a Christian), God has answered the question for you. He is the potter and we are the clay, and he can destroy us as he wishes. I understand you don't like this answer, but your like or dislike doesn't change what God said, and if you don't believe God said it, in what way are you a Christian?

But it still hurts like hell.

I understand your pain; I went through the same thing on 9/11, as I watched the dust cloud rise over the Hudson River. I just have to ask, in all sincerity, do you really find Rev. Honey comforting at all? Is the mystery of "How could God let this happen?" at all soothing to you?

Duke

Bacchus Veritas said...

Duke "My faith"? Oh yes, you thought I was a fundy when you wrote this, and I can understand your mistake, because I am making an argument most often made by fundamentalists,

LOL. I was way off. Yes, I took you for a fundy simply because I have heard the arguments you make and the rejection of other Christians so often. I see your points, well played. In fact, I am now more scared of them than ever.

Jamie Steele said...

It think the Bible is very clear about God and His sovereignty.

The Bible never claims God is setting back and biting His finger nails when a disaster happens.

I believe God knew it would happen and allowed it. Why i don't know and neither do you.

But I also know that "all things work together for good."

Rev. Tom and I must be reading a diff. Bible. But his talk is typical TED talk.

I like to listen to the TED talks and REv. Tom fits in real well.

Scott said...

I don't mean to be overly catty, and if I've offended you, please accept my apologies, but the Reverend Honey (pimpful be his holy name) is the single worst TED speaker I've ever seen.

Since he doesn't provide an uplifting sermon, he must be wrong.

Second, try to discern his actual subject. By his own admission, he doesn't know what he's talking about.

The subject was quite obvious. How does the orthodox view of God as a cosmic controller or tribal protector stand up under the light of the tsunami? How does this hold up to human standards of morality?

Am I wrong on this? Does it seem absurd to have someone give a talk who not only doesn't have the answers, but doesn't even know what the question are? Or even where to find the questions? Or even how to recognize the questions once we do find them?

Not having a stock answer for everything seems to make you uncomfortable. Does God fill this role for you? If so, I can see how you might find the reverends view problematic.

Separating that which we know from what we do not know has great value. Don't you agree?

And it's not like the ever-loving Reverend Honey is the first person to face this dilemma. He's standing on the shoulders of two thousand years of giants, the best minds of their times (at least those who were permitted write their thoughts down), and all he can give us is that pablum?

And what have these minds come up with? More ways to harmonize the Bible with the reality we observe. Instead, the Rev. thinks the Biblical perception of God's nature needs to change.

God has answered the question for you. He is the potter and we are the clay, and he can destroy us as he wishes. I understand you don't like this answer, but your like or dislike doesn't change what God said, and if you don't believe God said it, in what way are you a Christian?

While we might disagree if the Bible is the inspired word of God, we would both agree that it was written, edited and compiled by men. And, at the time, these men knew essentially nothing natural laws, science or biology.

People wanted answers. People wanted to know there was something out there more powerful than they were to protect them. People wanted someone to hand out justice and make sense out of the good and bad things that happened to them. And they were clearly superstitious.

They too felt uncomfortable without answers, so answers were given.

The question is, are these answers accurate? is God really the potter? What part of Christ's teachings are story designed to illustrate a point and which are based on reality?

Or, perhaps, the accuracy of these answers are really not important to you. Perhaps, just having answers is enough.

the dank said...

The Bible never claims God is setting back and biting His finger nails when a disaster happens.

I believe God knew it would happen and allowed it. Why i don't know and neither do you.

But I also know that "all things work together for good."


So the tsunami was really a "good" thing?

The Holocaust?

9/11?

All of those things are really just God's work being done to bring about "goodness"?

I know you think "Why? I don't know and neither do you," is a great response because I see you and Jason use it often, but we see it as you dancing around the subject by claiming that God is mysterious. That my friend is a very superficial answer and one that requires no thought. You are avoiding inevitable questions because you do not like the conclusions they lead you to so you simply avoid them altogether.

Jim Holman said...

evan writes: If you believe that fundamentalism is wrong, then you are criticizing the wrong blog.

I am not criticizing the blog. I am responding to specific comments. Not all Christians are fundamentalists. I believe this is an important distinction.

evan: If the majority of people in my local area, my family, and most of my friends thought Star Wars was literally a true story, it would take a lot of the metaphorical power out from it.

Fair enough. But what would be the proper response? To "reject" the Star Wars story as "false," or to try to educate others in the non-literal, symbolic nature of that story? I believe the latter would be the proper response.

evan: There's nothing fundamentalist about skepticism.

Quite true, but both skeptics and fundamentalists can be literalists. That's the issue I tried to address.

duke writes: Now, would you rather watch Star Wars or that disgusting snuff film The Passion of the Christ? The immense outwelling of support for the latter shows that it's actually what Christians believe (at least as far as I can say), but as far as I can see, even the first trilogy of Star Wars (Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith) contains far more actual thought, morals and merit than TPOTC.

I thought TPOTC was an awful movie. Apologies to Christians, but I was rooting for the Romans, because they had the best lines, and were the most interesting characters.

John W. Loftus said...

Jim, for people like you I have also provided a brief critique of liberal theology. Enjoy.

Kevin H said...

He's willing to say "I don't know", instead of trying to harmonize the obvious problems of God's omni traits with the world around us.

KH> Of course! But that doesn't mean one cannot speculate or scrutinize the data of one's view. Besides, "we can't harmonize anything" is itself an attempt to harmonize.

"We can't seem to harmonize everything", is more honest.


"I hate to harp on this again, but (if you're a Christian), God has answered the question for you. He is the potter and we are the clay, and he can destroy us as he wishes. I understand you don't like this answer, but your like or dislike doesn't change what God said, and if you don't believe God said it, in what way are you a Christian?"

KH> Despite the good points, I mostly disagree with Rev. Honey.

Secondly, I have no problem with Potter and clay. God is indeed sovereign over life, has the power to take it, and the wisdom to know when and how. I do have problems with people who offer pat answers and platitudes in the face of pain.

Kevin H

Jim Holman said...

john w loftus writes: Jim, for people like you I have also provided a brief critique of liberal theology. Enjoy.

I did read and enjoy. I was particularly struck by this comment, appearing in the final segment of the essay:

Actually atheists say these religious stories are delusionary, or false. I do not question the sincerity of the claims of believers, just like I don’t question the sincerity of paranoid schizophrenics. They aren’t lies intended to deceive, they are simply false. And liberal Christians are simply playing pretend with these falsehoods.

I think you're really missing the point of these religious stories and related traditions. Let me give you an example.

Look at how people react to the American flag. When the flag is raised or passes by people stiffen and stand taller. Some become teary-eyed. People stop talking. We teach the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in the schools.

Sailors killed in action are buried at sea, their body bags sliding into the ocean from underneath a flag. The coffins of deceased soldiers are covered with a flag, and the family receives the flag as part of a solemn ceremony.

We have all sorts of rules concerning how the flag is to be flown, folded, carried, and disposed of.

But we might imagine a "flag debunker" pondering all this and pointing out that the flag is simply a piece of cloth, and not a very attractive piece of cloth at that. There are no interesting colors or design patterns, with no particular artwork involved. Thus the reactions and respect given to the flag -- this "piece of cloth" -- are really quite irrational.

And in a significant sense -- a literal sense -- the flag debunker would be absolutely correct.

But in another sense, wouldn't we say that the flag debunker was missing something vitally important about the flag? -- namely that the flag has tremendous symbolic importance.

In other words, the flag stands not just for itself, as a piece of cloth, but as a symbol it directs our attention to courage, to sacrifice, to loyalty, and to respect for all of those values.

But the flag debunker is not finished. Yes, it is a symbol, he affirms, but a symbol in the name of which some pretty terrible things have been done, including slavery, the destruction of the Indian nations, of mindless patriotism, of imperial exploitation, and of many evil things too numerous to mention.

Once again, the flag debunker would be quite correct -- up to a point. But I think we would respond that certainly that is not the totality of what has been done in the name of the flag, and that there are many positive things that have to be considered.

I would say that as with the flag, so with religious stories. Religious stories communicate values that could not be communicated in any other way. They are part of the construction of a moral worldview, even as they have often been used for immoral purposes.

Any symbol can be used for good or evil. But that is not a reason to reject the symbol. Any symbol can be portrayed as trivial -- a piece of cloth, or a strange primitive story -- but that does not mean that the symbol is trivial -- that in fact it can communicate a profound truth those those who are willing to look beneath the mere surface of the symbol.

And I would add that the profound truth cannot be comprehended by a literalistic interpretation of the symbol.

Evan said...

Jim I'm not John and I won't try to speak for him.

But a flag is an ABSTRACT symbol. It is all connotation without denotation. It makes no assertions other than the historical associations that it carries both good and bad.

Thus, some flags are not allowed in polite society (Germany 1943), some are nearly always suspicious (CSA Battle flag), some flags are inflammatory in some locations even today (Israel's flag in any of many countries, the US flag in those same countries, the North Korean flag in the US) and other flags are all but meaningless (Monaco).

The meaning of the abstract symbol changes as the historical understanding of the thing symbolized changes.

The Bible is anything BUT abstract. It is a collection of stories. Those stories have moral implications, and I daresay most of the contributors on this blog would not vouch for the moral value of the vast bulk of those stories.

I suppose a picture of a leatherbound book with a red ribbon going through gold leaf pages is a symbol, but the actual text of the Bible is most decidedly not a symbol.

And again, it's not like other mythopoetic narratives are accepted whole cloth and just valued for their beauty. Modern people recoil in disgust with Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigenia. Modern people recoil in disgust at the rape of Lucretia and at her subsequent suicide for something not her fault.

Our current historical/ethical/social consciousness determines our response to myths and to my eyes there is no overarching mythic narrative that deserves respect simply because of its history.

If we decided Hamlet was a lousy play, there would be no point in going over and over it because people have done it before. Hamlet has to still be good today to be worth spending time on.

Tom said...

God is never obligated to show grace. Grace is undeserved. No one deserves grace. God did nothing wrong in allowing this.

Jim Holman said...

evan writes: The Bible is anything BUT abstract. It is a collection of stories. Those stories have moral implications, and I daresay most of the contributors on this blog would not vouch for the moral value of the vast bulk of those stories.

Yes, exactly! But in this thread we're talking about liberal Christianity, not fundamentalism.

The educated liberal Christian understands that many of these stories are immoral. They understand that the Old Testament presents God as a very primitive tribal god, rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies -- really more of a "Godfather" than a god. Marcus Borg has said publicly that there are many parts of the Old Testament that he "doesn't need to read any more."

But that doesn't mean that all the stories of the Bible fall into that category.

For liberal Christians, Christianity is not static but is a developmental religion. That development continues unto today. It will continue to develop in the future, and no one at any point has all the answers.

This is why the Rev. Honey said that the ultimate religious statement is "I don't know." This leaves him open to attack from all those who already "know" -- whether fundamentalists or opponents of Christianity.

John W. Loftus said...

Jim, if the ultimate religious statement is "I don't know," then I am religious too. For I am first and foremost an agnostic about all religious claims, thereby making me an affirm atheism for the simple reason that if I don't know then the odds are that the reason I don't know is because god doesn't exist.

Furthermore, there is a huge difference between what we deny and what we affirm. The denial is the easy part. We all do it. We all deny other religious claims easily with complete confidence. I just deny yours with that same level of confidence that you deny the others. When it comes to what I affirm see above.

TOM said...

Views of Christian:
God could have stopped the tsunami at any time. I think that he allowed it to happen because when people get complacent in their life they start living selfishly and ungrateful. A trajedy will fix this condition and show people what is important in their lives.
Is this the majority view in Christianiy? It does not matter. Every Chrisian is a person with their own views. Most would probably agree that this is the orthodox view though.

Hamilcar said...

Tom,

God could have stopped the tsunami at any time. I think that he allowed it to happen because when people get complacent in their life they start living selfishly and ungrateful. A trajedy will fix this condition and show people what is important in their lives.

Ok, wait. You're saying one of two things, here. Either you're saying that those thousands and thousands of people, including little babies, were all "living selfishly and ungrateful", and thus deserved to be killed...

or,

...you're saying that people elsewhere in the world were "living selfishly and ungrateful" and God allowed this massive tragedy as some sort of huge object lesson for the rest of us. Thousands of innocent babies suffer agonizing, terrifying death just so the rest of us can "learn something".

Either way, that's monstrous. This is the God you think everyone should love and worship? If I thought he was real, I'd tell him what a jerk he is.

DB said...

That's the God of the Old Testament your have mistaken...the new and improved God doesn't get involved in proving points on such a grand scale because the scientists will create a "reason" for the disasters taking all His credit away. Damn them, damn them all to hell.

Shygetz said...

jim, I have a few questions.

1.) Please explain the difference between a Liberal Christian and an agnostic humanist

2.) By your definition of a Liberal Christian, would it be similarly possible to be a Liberal Aesopist or a Liberal Shakespearean?

3.) What truth claims do Liberal Christianity make?