How to Debunk Christianity

As you can see from this chart of denominations the Church of Christ is represented as the true church. I have not tried to verify the facts, but it’s roughly accurate I suppose in representing when they started and such. Notice that every denomination is part of "Babylon the Great Whore" depicted in the book of Revelation except those in the “Restoration Movement” “non-denominational” conservative middle branch of the Christian Church/Churches of Christ, of which I was once a part. In the lower right hand corner there is a strict warning that people in these other denominations will probably be doomed. A lot of other Christians in various denominations think the same way about the Church of Christ and condemn them as heretical.


Is that not the hoot! No doubt everyone is deceived if you talk to conservatives. I even saw a recent video where during a church service a preacher had his parishioners come forward and they were asked to rip apart any Bible they had except the King James Version. Not even the New King James Version was acceptable.

One Christian group thinks the others are deceived while other groups think likewise about them.

I have several Systematic Theology textbooks, including one by H. Wayne House, called Charts of Christian Theology & Doctrine. In it he charts the denominations of course, but he also has charts of five models of revelation, six views of inspiration, five views of the Trinity [I have a used book and on the “Orthodox Trinitarian” view the previous owner, presumably a student, penciled in “Us!!”], three views of “tongues,” four views of the nature of man, three views on original sin, five views of salvation, nine views of the atonement, five views of sanctification, four views on water baptism, four views of the Lord’s Supper, four views of the rapture, four views of the millennium, and so on.


Rich Knopp at Lincoln Christian University, my Alma mater, is using my book, WIBA, in his college and master’s level classes on apologetics. As students read through it they are asked to notice any contradictions they see within the text. When I first heard about this I was puzzled, but not any more. For in one part I argue as if God has foreknowledge of human actions while in another part of it I argue that God doesn’t have this kind of foreknowledge. Contradiction? No, not here. It’s just that I’m arguing that if God has foreknowledge he should be able to foreknow and answer prayers that haven’t yet been prayed, but in fact I don’t believe God can have this kind of foreknowledge along with other Christians. Does this debunk Christianity? Well, not those who affirm Open Theism since I at one time embraced this view. But I do argue against them on other issues, especially when it comes to the logical choices that open theists have not sufficiently dealt with on page 81, where I use Paul Helm’s argument against it.

And here is the problem. When it comes to Christianity I agree with the Protestant criticisms of the Catholics as well as the Catholic criticisms of the Protestants. And I also agree with the fundamentalist criticisms of the liberals as well as the liberal criticisms of the fundamentalists. And I agree with the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish criticisms of Christianity, as well as the Christian criticisms against their religions. When they criticize each other I think they’re all right! What’s left is the demise of religion and Christianity as a whole.

So in order to make my case I represent contrary theological positions against other theologies. If someone wants to argue Pat Robertson was wrong when he said the Haitians deserved what they got then I must argue that he stands squarely in the Christian tradition. He’s not stupid. He’s more consistent than those other Christians who are denouncing him. But by doing so I’m called stupid by these other Christians who denounce him as stupid. I’m not being stupid. These other Christians fail to realize that Robertson’s views were standard fare among Christians at one time, and are still held today by a lot of people who donate money to Robertson’s ministry. They’re all stupid, right? They are all deceived, right? That’s what more enlightened Christians say and it reminds me of that Church of Christ chart above.

So at this point about all I can do is argue that if God exists he is at least partially to blame for people not understanding his will, as I did for a long chapter in The Christian Delusion. This is a serious problem for the Christian faith given the horrible deeds the church did down through the centuries, and the fact that one denomination condemns to hell a different one.

Robert G. Ingersoll said:
Every [Christian] sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed His will to man. To each reader the Bible conveys a different meaning. About the meaning of this book, called a revelation, there have been ages of war and centuries of sword and flame. If written by an infinite God, He must have known that these results must follow; and thus knowing, He must be responsible for all.
Friedrich Nietzsche said:
A god who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who does not even make sure his creatures understand his intention—could that be a god of goodness? Who allows countless doubts and dubieties to persist, for thousands of years, as though the salvation of mankind were unaffected by them, and who on the other hand holds out the prospect of frightful consequences if any mistake is made as to the nature of truth? . . . Did he perhaps lack intelligence to do so? Or the eloquence? Must he not then . . . be able to help and counsel [his creatures], except in the manner of a deaf man making all kinds of ambiguous signs when the most fearful danger is about to befall on his child or dog?
Should't this be good enough?

[First posted 2/17/10]

48 comments:

Cole said...

"One Christian group thinks the others are deceived while other groups think likewise about them."

Yep. Everybody thinks each other are religious pharisees too. The liberal calls a person who judges all non-Christians to be unregenerate a Pharisee. The mainstream church-goer calls the fundamentalist a Pharisee. The one who judges all professing Christians to be regenerate calls the one who judges some or most professing Christians to be unregenerate a Pharisee. The antinomian calls the legalist a Pharisee. And on and on it goes - Pharisee this, Pharisee that.

busterggi said...

In his or her heart each Christian knows that he or she is the only REAL Christian.

John W. Loftus said...

To better view the Church of Christ chart click on it and then right click on the image that you see. Then choose "view Image." You can blow it up even larger to read the fine print if you wish to do so.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

What I find so un-educational with this chart is that the “Greek Catholics” and the Roman Catholics were NEVER part of the same group.

From the start, the Roman Catholics were the “Mother of Harlots” meaning the mother of the false Protestants traditions, while the Greek Catholics (Orthodox sects) are even placed lower on the doom to Hell chart even though they produced no baby harlot Protestant sects!

Studying church history under the nut who made this chart would have been one hell of a confusing hoot.

This chart does prove one thing about truth: In Christianity, truth is highly subjective!

Ryan Peter said...

Lol.

I guess the elitism will never end. What a nutso chart. I wonder how long it took them to come up with this nonsense.

I don't think it debunks Christianity, John, especially since the Bible depicts the church in an organic way, citing scriptures that the church needs to 'mature' and is a body etc.

Obviously, I'm a Christian so you know I'm going to say that. But anyway, let me say that this kind of chart depicts immaturity as far as I'm concerned, nothing more, (and yes, this immaturity leads to many problems for us all) but seeing it that way should lead one to many interesting conclusions.

Breckmin said...

Ryan is right. All this really is is imperfection and immaturity on the part of those who are still learning. Eventually, many believers will come out of these exclusive ridiculous claims and acknowledge all born-again Christians throughout the thousands of denominations as brothers and sisters in Christ.

anybody who thinks exactly like someone else on everything...

one of them isn't thinking. we are
all learning and testing. disagreement on peripheral theology is logical

Jer said...

Eventually, many believers will come out of these exclusive ridiculous claims and acknowledge all born-again Christians throughout the thousands of denominations as brothers and sisters in Christ.

And what about the believers who don't believe that you need to be "born again" to be a Christian? What about the Universalists? What about the Catholics? When do you recognize them as brothers and sisters in Christ? Or will they be forever excluded from your little box because of their own interpretation of what it means to be a Christian? Are you purposely trying to prove John's point for him, or was that just an amusing accident?

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

The Independent Fundamental Baptist put out a book about 15 -20 years ago called The Trail of Blood.

This book was written to prove that the Baptist Church is older than Christianity itself by tracing the Baptist origins back to John the Baptist himself; the forerunner of both Jesus and Christianity.

I debated a Church of Christ minister back in 1989. Three quarter of my time was spent educating him on facts and correcting his denominational’s gross misinformation.

Although the Church of Christ will not have musical instruments in their services (since they claim the first Christians didn’t either), this fact doesn’t seem to stop them from using the modern electronic and modern broadcasting media.

Greg said...

Harry -- "Greek Catholics" ARE Catholic, specifically Byzantine Catholic. They are in union with the Roman church and accept the primacy of the Pope. Their liturgy is more or less the same as the Orthodox.

John W. Loftus said...

The Church of Christ Chart was updated in 2006, and lookee here, there is no indication that the other denominations are doomed. Hmmm, Christians becomes more and more liberal as the years go by, don't they? ;-)

AdamK said...

Whoever gets the most whitewash on his sepulcre wins!

Greg said...

Looking at the chart, however, I see that the Orthodox are called "Greek Catholic". American Protestant Parochialism at its finest.

Rob R said...

I do argue against them on other issues, especially when it comes to the logical choices that open theists have not sufficiently dealt with on page 81, where I use Paul Helm’s argument against it.

What, someone's pushing my buttons? Yeehaw!

If there's anything of value in Helm's Criticism, you didn't reproduce enough of it. Seems the guy confuses physics with metaphysics with the claim about the issue of time and space. Time is a perfectly coherent concept of chronological ordering from before to after without reference to space. Just because the flow or measure of time becomes wrapped up in space in physical laws doesn't mean this is absolutely the nature of time itself. You might as well argue that thoughts or information which may be chronologically ordered but have no clear necessary relation to space are themselves spatial.

As for the matter of finitude and time, (another claim made that did not reproduce Helm's argument to sufficiently show that there's anything to be impressed with). The infinitude of God is one of those concepts that have been overemphasized to the point of being problematic. Anything that could be said of God is said to be limiting or DEFINING. Ergo, the overemphasis of infinitude has lead to extreme inneffability. While some people like that, It seems a worthless dogma to me that is only at odds with Christian theism and does not consistently arise from scripture which has plenty to say about God. That God is infinite doesn't mean that he is infinite in absolutely every way. There are many ways that there can be infinitude. If God knew nothing but the complete representation of pi in the decimal system, he would be infinite in knowledge. Even these so called finite concepts of space and time can be concieved of infinitely and modern physics has speculated an infinite universe in terms. If God is dynamic temporally or even if God is spacial (something I consider speculative either way) that leaves plenty of room for God to be infinite in many ways (including spacially and temporally).

As for the main point of the topic, ho hum, it is just more appeal to controversy.

Andreas said...

@Ryan:
"Obviously, I'm a Christian so you know I'm going to say that. But anyway, let me say that this kind of chart depicts immaturity as far as I'm concerned, nothing more, (and yes, this immaturity leads to many problems for us all) but seeing it that way should lead one to many interesting conclusions."
- It would be indeed very interesting if the huge number of different christian denominations / different theological positions is a sign of "immaturity". Since the number of christian denominations increases over time, Christianity is obviously becoming more and more "immature" with each passing year, or do you disagree ?

@Breckmin:
"anybody who thinks exactly like someone else on everything...

one of them isn't thinking. we are
all learning and testing. disagreement on peripheral theology is logical"
- The question whether eternal punishment exists and what one would have to do in order to avoid it is "peripheral theology" ?

Breckmin said...

<>
That is why I specify "born-again" Christian from Christian. Often in the middle east, if you are not Muslim or Jewish or Hindu...everyone that is left over can be labeled "Christian."
Christian itself has become a relative term. Born-again Christian specifies the necessity of the Perfect Sacrifice of Jesus dying on the Cross for your sins as payment for them.

<>
What about them? Some of them come out of universalism and actually begin to understand why eternal hell and separation is logical based on the Holy Nature of God. They mature as believers.
There is no way to judge anyone individually unless you are omniscient about their heart and the work that God is doing and will do throughout their life.

<>
There are born-again Catholics just
as their are born-again Christians in other various denominations. There are even born-again Mormons who often come out of LDS once they realize that the Father does not need a "body."

<>
When they confess the necessity of the Perfect Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

<>

It is important to specify Jesus followers as those who KNOW who He is with respect to the essentials of the faith. (The Deity of Christ, the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, etc).

<>

It is the nature of truth, facts and reality to be in and of themselves dogmatic...and consistent with the mind of our Omniscient Creator Who knows all.
We discover these facts and truths as we seek Him and learn. Of course, if you do not know "WHY" there is a Creator because you do not know how to answer all of the questions in John's book..then my assertion about truth and facts will be irrelevant to you.
If you do know how to answer all of the questions and points in John's book...it is because of the grace of God and the grace of God alone and you already know that you are no better than anyone. Whatever a slave has...he has because the Master has graciously given it to him...even if it is through weakness and struggle.

Question everything. But when you question...pray for protection.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Greg,
You have more in the way of wishful thinking than reality.

Rome excommunicated the Greek Patriarch and the Greek Patriarch excommunicated the Pope in 1054.

Major areas of disagreement are:

A. Roman Papal Authority

B. The Filioque Clause of the Gospel of John 15. (And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.) This was one of the main areas of contention that lead to the schism.

C. The doctrine of Original Sin

D. The Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church and not accepted by the Orthodox.

F. While all Roman Catholics are unified under the Pope in Rome, the many the Orthodox sects are loosely united under the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

G. There are no Religious Orders in the Orthodox tradition.

Greg, I could go on with much more. The authority on the subject is the Late Henry Chadwick’s:

East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church: From Apostolic Times until the Council of Florence (Oxford University Press, 2005).

The Doctrinal differences are discussed in detial by the late Sterling Professor of Church History at Yale, Jarovslav Pelikan, in his master piece:

The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.

He devotes a complete volume to Orthodox theology in:

,The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700); (University Of Chicago Press, 1977).

Breckmin said...

"Time is a perfectly coherent concept of chronological ordering from before to after without reference to space. Just because the flow or measure of time becomes wrapped up in space in physical laws doesn't mean this is absolutely the nature of time itself."
They can both be broken up into pieces infinitely...always infinitely smaller. There is no reason to believe that either is finite other than to say that time is effectually eternal in one direction...or became effectual at creation.
3 dimensinal spatial existence can be specified and differentiated from quantum space. Just as we can perceive an infinite universe of finite quantum space being surrounded by infinite free space so also we can conceive of infinite equilibrium and this does not need to deny a flat universe.
I would welcome a debate on the Reimann curvature tensor and manifolds as well as any other mathematical theory which
goes against pragmatic real time-space relationships.
Time and 3 dimensional spatial existence are both infinite. This is far more consistent with theism.

The God of Abraham is factual, btw.
Just as John's points and question can indeed be answered.

Cafeeine Addicted said...

I still find it funny how when someone rags on the religion I was brought up with (Greek Orthodox Christianity) compared to other Christian sects I still feel somewhat slighted.

Harry, it seems to me as if Greg was initially referring to Catholics who happen to be Greek, not realizing the chart just relabeled the the G.O. Church

Andreas said...

@Breckmin:
Your verbose statement can be easily compressed to:
"My theological position is the only logical one because I say so."

According to your point of view, the vast majority of christians who ever lived have not been saved. So you are obviously to modest when you say:
"it is because of the grace of God and the grace of God alone and you already know that you are no better than anyone."
God obviously loves you *MUCH* more than almost any person who ever lived on this planet, be proud and look forward to eternal bliss in a very lonesome heaven.

Andreas said...

"The God of Abraham is factual, btw."
- The Bible saying so, and you wishing it does not make it factual.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Thanks Cafeeine A.

I agree with you.

Greg, I grew up a as Lutheran and went to Columbia Presbyterian Seminary, Atlanta, Ga.

Both these two Protestant groups accept the term catholic too (but with a little “c”). Plus, all the Protestant groups accept the early creedal formulations as expressed in the Apostle and Nicene Creeds. Thus, you could claim much the same about them also: Their liturgy is more or less the same as the Orthodox.

After all, we are talking about Christianity and not authority.

Greg said...

Harry -- Wow. I'm merely saying there is a Byzantine catholic tradition, which is not Orthodox. I was raised Russian Orthodox, and yes, the term catholic is used in Orthodoxy, namely as the Catholic and Holy Apostolic Church. But, there are Eastern Catholics, as in Popish Plot sort of Catholics. I guess I should have said they share the same LITURGY as the Eastern Orthodox, namely the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Same dance moves, same fab outfits, etc. (I understand they were influenced by the Platters.) BUT, these are people who accept the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome.


And BELIEVE me, I've heard the doctrinal difference between the Eastern and Western church ad nauseam, mainly over piroshki at my grandmother's house after church.

There was also plenty of whispering about a certain family because the father had been a practicing Eastern Rite Catholic (I believe he was -- GASP -- Ukrainian) before he married a proper Orthodox gal.

To find out more, I'd suggest you refer to:

Grisha, eat! by my Babushka.

Are we jake?


Cafeeine Addicted --

I know! I'm still confused by that. In my case, I guess its because I do have a lot of good associations with it. Were you Greek orthodox? You guys at least had Christmas on Christmas. Ours was in early January, and as a result I spent a couple of Superbowls dripping hot wax on my hands in church.

Annoying!

Breckmin said...

"The Bible saying so, and you wishing it does not make it factual."

The bible is a collection of multiple sources over more than a thousand years with different authors all testifying to the same thing.

There was no "bible" in print available to the masses until the printing press for around 1600 years after the birth of Jesus...

STILL the truth of the Logic of God spread throughout the world and the knowledge of the Creator existed independent of "the bible."

The details of the logic of God are indeed revealed through the prophets and apostles who represented the truth of God to the nation of Israel and to the church...however - they still had truth even before Moses wrote the majority of the Torah.

"wishing it" is evasive to all of the reasons we know their is a Creator through scientific observation such as biological information which is clearly a code, and complex mechanical working systems such as then nano-factories of living cells, and even IF-THEN algorithmic programming we see in gene regulation of the Lac operon (E.coli).
It is through scientific observation that we make the first step toward truth - which is agnostic theism.

Breckmin said...

"The question whether eternal punishment exists and what one would have to do in order to avoid it is "peripheral theology" ?"

Thank you for this very good question. IF you are struggling with "what one would have to do" then you are struggling with soteriology and not just logical punishment for exact offenses and eternal separation which is multi-faceted and can not be isolated.

Universalism and Mormonism are quite different from Catholicism which is historically orthodox.

Still, a born-again Christian can temporarly fall into LDS or even Jehovah's Witnesses until God is faithful to redeem him out of such false beliefs.

It ALL comes back to the Faithfulness and the Grace of God.

It is not fair. No one (with logic) ever said it could be somehow "fair" since everyone is born under completely different circumstances).

Marylynne said...

busterggi said...
"In his or her heart each Christian knows that he or she is the only REAL Christian."

This reminds me of Garrison Keillor - "Every July tomato thinks it is the only tomato."

"Eternal Hell and separation is logical" - Wow. Wow wow wow. If you could even say "logical" about any of it, out of the whole mess that is the least logical part of all. The mental gymnastics required to reconcile a loving omnipotent God with eternal hell and separation - when according to the story he made the rules, he gave us free will, he either saw or ordained what we would do with it, he made hell, he can change our hearts for god's sake. He hardened the Pharoah's heart and softened Saul's. If any of us don't believe it is his doing too. It's his frickin' game! And so you pretend that he is helpless to effect evil, even that done in his name, or helpless in the face of my little "I don't see any evidence for gods."

If any of it were true, salvation for all is much more logical. Jesus' blood would cover all. We are condemned to suffering and damnation because of things mostly out of our control? That isn't logical at all.

Andreas said...

@Breckmin:
""wishing it" is evasive to all of the reasons we know their is a Creator through scientific observation such as biological information which is clearly a code,"
- 1. "Information" and "Code" are two different concepts.
2. Macromolecules which contain the information to carry out a specific molecular function do not require a "Creator". They don´t even require evolution! This has been shown in many experiments, Jack Szostaks group for example generated proteins which specifically bind ATP by screening a *random* cDNA library (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6829/full/410715a0.html - if you can´t access the paper, I´d be happy to send it to you). Similar experiments have been carried out to produce Ribozymes capable of self-cleavage or RNA synthesis. So, random collisions of molecules are already sufficient to produce polymers with specific molecular functions (these functions can of course be altered or optimized by some rounds of selection - this is frequently used in Biotechnology and is in many cases actually superior to rational design by human experts).

"and complex mechanical working systems such as then nano-factories of living cells, and even IF-THEN algorithmic programming we see in gene regulation of the Lac operon (E.coli)."
- It actually is much more complex than that. Even in prokaryotic gene regulation you already see phenomena which cannot be described with simple if-then statements (such as harmonic oscillators e.g.). Guess what happens with lacZ-deletion strains of E. coli when they are grown on a lactose-rich medium - they evolve a new operon of course, which has been studied in the lab (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1201865/pdf/335.pdf).

"It is through scientific observation that we make the first step toward truth - which is agnostic theism."
- Well, excuse me but... you don´t seem to know very much about these "scientific observations", so maybe your "first step towards agnostic theism" was a little too early.


"Thank you for this very good question. IF you are struggling with "what one would have to do" then you are struggling with soteriology and not just logical punishment for exact offenses and eternal separation which is multi-faceted and can not be isolated."
- You did not answer my question. Let me rephrase it. I am living in a small city in the western part of germany, there are two churches near my home, lets call them church A and B.
If I go to church A, they would tell me that hell is just a metaphor and that it doesn´t matter that I don´t believe in Jesus because I could still accept him as my saviour after I died. If I go to church B however, they would tell me that I have to accept Jesus Christ as my savior during my lifetime or my soul would be annihilated after my dead. Members of both churches have plenty of bible verses to back up their position. Would you say that this is a disagreement on "peripheral theology" ?

"Still, a born-again Christian can temporarly fall into LDS or even Jehovah's Witnesses until God is faithful to redeem him out of such false beliefs.

It ALL comes back to the Faithfulness and the Grace of God."
- Well, since the overwhelming majority of the people who ever lived have not been born-again christians, God doesn´t seem to care to much about those false beliefs. Apparently Gods Grace is extremely limited and mostly reserved for white american people.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Well if there's so much confusion over being a Christian, then how in the heck can an atheist criticize it or anyone who claims to be such?

Do YOU know what a Christian believes? Obviously not!

You never pointed out what anyone believes about Jesus. Those who believe that he is less than or not God are certainly not Christian. How can they be?

Most of what you discuss is about Christian practice not Christian orthodoxy to begin with. So what's the point?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Harvey,

Depending on how wide and inclusive your definition of Christianity, and your view of the sacraments, there's other Christians who view you as a heretic, and who may find your views either dangerous and false or damnable.

The point is that Christians have refused to worship with each other, even excommunicated each other (as the western and eastern halves of the Roman Empire did around 1000 CE, the Catholics excommunicating all the Orthodox and vice versa). And have continued to break with one another, calling each other's views anathema, right down to the Southern Baptists, Southern Presbyterians and Southern Methodists breaking with all of their northern brethren in the U.S. in order to form their own churches over the issue of whether or not ministers ought to own slaves.

I know someone whose parents attended three different churches as he grew up because of three schisms that took place in each new church congregation that they had joined. That person left the faith of his parents for a moderate Evangelical view and they remain disappointed in their son's interpretation of Christianity.

As for what various groups think about Jesus, there are millions of Pentecostals in one branch of Pentecostalism today who do not believe in the Trinity or that Jesus is God (see the info at the Religious Tolerance website).

There's primitive Baptists and also some Jewish-Christian groups today who do not believe in the Trinity or that Jesus is God. There are Unitarians and Jews who do not believe Jesus is God. And there were Arians in the past and Arian-like religions today who believe Jesus is divine but in a limited sense, the first of God's creations, his "word" but not fully equal to God.

There's also Christians in mainstream denominations and other denominations who accept the Apostles Creed but don't interpret the resurrection and ascension in a literal bodily manner.

Harvey, tell me really matters? That a person believe specific things? Christians declared Origen a heretic. He was a church father, became a heretic. Tertullian, another church father, left the Orthodox church of his day. Luther wound up fighting the church he tried to help reform, declaring the papacy the AntiChrist.

Greg said...

There's also the issue of the little personal schisms each believer carries with them that they don't articulate or assume that is orthodoxy.

How does a believer know what is god and what is his or her minister's idiosyncrasies or poor scholarship, or an idea smuggled in from pop culture, or the theological creep of ideas from another faith, or artifacts of their material well-being, or confusion of national myths or simple aesthetics? Even sects that claim simplicity have an agenda, and are as arrogant and as worldly as the Megachurch with the Starbuck's in the lobby.

What percentage of what you worship is god, and what is the accretion of 2,000 years of cultural plague?

The fact that hundreds of earnest books on theology and apologetics and conduct are published each year, with the idea of clarifying and sharpening belief for thousands of discrete, disparate faith communities shows us that nobody knows nothing about nothing.

(My word verification was "fundies")

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Greg, I once expressed the search for the reality of a Biblical God as an analogy like this:

Truth in Christianity is like a head of lettuce. The outer most leaves that are loose yellow-brown can be stripped off as almost worthless (latest man made theology added on to Christianity. Creedal layers).

Next, and what appears more authentic, are the dark green leaves bound a little tighter and considered more valuable (The teachings of the early church and apostles about who Jesus was, but it is still man made theology).

Next are the tighter light green leaves of the lettuce head as we deeper toward the center (latest prophetical books of the Bible, but still man made theology).

We can continue to pull apart the lettuce head of Biblical time and tradition as we force our way towards the lettuce’s tightly bound white inner leaves hoping to find a real authentic core with a real functioning God and His heavenly truth.

Fact is, after pulling apart everything from the easiest to pull off outer most yellow-brown leaves and moving on all the way to the tightly bound inner most pure white lettuce leaves, all we’ll ever find (once the complete heard of lettuce is totally pulled apart and all the individual leaves are laid out on the table) is that nothing is left but the many individual leaves themselves representing layer upon layer of time and tradition marking the passing opinions of men (and some women) who claim to know and speak for a concept called “God”.

Little wonder the Biblical god is described to look and act like men. It is they who created him and it is they who keep him alive and kicking via theology!

Greg said...

Yes. And like lettuce, it's mostly water.

Ryan Peter said...

@Andreas

"It would be indeed very interesting if the huge number of different christian denominations / different theological positions is a sign of "immaturity". Since the number of christian denominations increases over time, Christianity is obviously becoming more and more "immature" with each passing year, or do you disagree ?"

I disagree. The nature of denominations is changing, and you must not confuse a movement / a circle of relationships for a denomination.

Denominations are mostly institutional, whereas a HUGE part of the church these days functions on relational models, ie. our church is accountable to another church because of the relationship leaders have with each other. The church is moving to an organic model across the world with house churches etc. and many different types of movements and this is surely a sign of maturing.

In the old days, people would form a denomination around a specific belief. These days, people with differing beliefs can function within the same group of churches because the relationship between those churches is seen as more important than periphery issues.

Because I am friends with Bob next door makes it natural that I'm going to work with Bob more than Ted who lives three blocks away. That is not a sign of division, that's just how relationships work. However, if I criticise Ted for what he believes even when I don't even know him at all, that's a sign of immaturity and causes division.

I don't know which part of the world you live in, but it is also important that one realises that the American church and Western church have problems that the rest of the world doesn't have. Of course, churches in other parts of the world have other problems.

It seems to me, living in South Africa, that we tend to get along a lot easier than those in America. Even with our apartheid past. Your critique of the church could be flipped to show that perhaps your general western culture is what causes schism and elitism, although one would obviously have to be careful when talking about that as my culture has its own problems too.

But it does seem to me that a lot of the elitism I've encountered within the church is an American problem. One South African pastor I know who is working in America to help get churches to work together was told by an American pastor once that, "I know what you're teaching is biblical, but this is America and it won't fly here." A lot can be said of how the American church has moulded itself so closely to the American flag that it's hard to distinguish one from the other, much to its own detriment.

The point is that you must not be too hasty to see the church's division as some sort of way to debunk Christianity. The division may actually be a problem with your western culture, not the church as a whole, and can you blame it if Christians find themselves swept in to the prevailing culture?

@John

"The Church of Christ Chart was updated in 2006, and lookee here, there is no indication that the other denominations are doomed. Hmmm, Christians becomes more and more liberal as the years go by, don't they? ;-)"

Doesn't that prove my point of 'maturing'?

Gandolf said...

Ryan Peter said..."It seems to me, living in South Africa, that we tend to get along a lot easier than those in America."

"The church is moving to an organic model across the world with house churches etc. and many different types of movements and this is surely a sign of maturing."

"Doesn't that prove my point of 'maturing'?"

--------------------------


Evidence of organic maturing African christian house church http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33356826/

Andreas said...

@Ryan:
"In the old days, people would form a denomination around a specific belief. These days, people with differing beliefs can function within the same group of churches because the relationship between those churches is seen as more important than periphery issues."
- The amount of different theological positions definitely increases over time, some of those differences are minor and can be bridged, but some are fundamental and can hardly be called "periphery issues". Many Born-again christians like Breckmin even go so far as to believe that millions of their fellow christians will not be saved because they got the message of the bible on salvation all wrong. Salvation seems like a key-issue to me...
The quote from Robert G. Ingersoll in Johns post hits the nail on the head.

@Harvey:
"Well if there's so much confusion over being a Christian, then how in the heck can an atheist criticize it or anyone who claims to be such?"
- Read Johns original post and this should become clear to you.

Ryan Peter said...

@ Gandolf

"Evidence of organic maturing African christian house church http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33356826/"

I don't even know if it's worth responding to you.

A) These aren't even organic house churches. House churches and organic models do not have 'headquarters' and the like. Maybe you should look at what 'organic' or an organic model means?

B) The church is said to have been a branch from a Californian (that's America, by the way) church (according to the news report link you provided). They say they 'lost communication'. Begs the question - was there any real relationship in the first place?

C) Hmmm... how far is South Africa from Nigeria again? Oh yes, a few COUNTRIES away. There's a difference between the southern point of Africa and central Africa...

Sorry for the frankness, but I think your reply was absurd.

Ryan Peter said...

@ Gandolf

"Evidence of organic maturing African christian house church http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33356826/"

I don't even know if it's worth responding to you.

A) These aren't even organic house churches. House churches and organic models do not have 'headquarters' and the like. Maybe you should look at what 'organic' or an organic model means?

B) The church is said to have been a branch from a Californian (that's America, by the way) church (according to the news report link you provided). They say they 'lost communication'. Begs the question - was there any real relationship in the first place?

C) Hmmm... how far is South Africa from Nigeria again? Oh yes, a few COUNTRIES away. There's a difference between the southern point of Africa and central Africa...

Sorry for the frankness, but I think your reply was absurd.

Ryan Peter said...

Sorry for the double post :( Got a firefox error or something and it posted twice.

Ryan Peter said...

@ Andreas

"The amount of different theological positions definitely increases over time, some of those differences are minor and can be bridged, but some are fundamental and can hardly be called "periphery issues". Many Born-again christians like Breckmin even go so far as to believe that millions of their fellow christians will not be saved because they got the message of the bible on salvation all wrong. Salvation seems like a key-issue to me...
The quote from Robert G. Ingersoll in Johns post hits the nail on the head."

I would say you're confusing 'unity of the faith' with 'unity of doctrine'. You are also confusing maturity with every-one-believes-the-same-one-size-fits-all doctrine.

Maturity has to do with relating to each other in love even when we believe different things - that's what I mean by maturing.

Ingersoll's quote seems to miss this point too. What if the point is not WHAT you believe but WHO you believe? I believe that IS the point. Christianity is about FAITH in Jesus Christ, which means a trust and reliance on a person, even when we doubt and simply don't know.

Of course, you have to probably believe the person is God to have that much faith in Him to give you eternal life, but you can't put the cart before the horse. The horse is believing in Him, faith and grace.

What if God deliberately didn't give all the answers so that we wouldn't have them, which forces us to put our faith in Him rather than put our faith in what we believe. You couldn't say it was unfair, because salvation depends on FAITH and God's GRACE, not on KNOWLEDGE. That's what the Bible says and what Christianity has always claimed, even when Christians have missed the point themselves. In fact, if this is the case, Christianity is brilliant news because you can be saved even if you are ignorant to good doctrine! This is the difference between religion and relationship.

If Breckmin believes what you say he does, he and I can have a conversation around how he expects people who can't read or who have no access to the Bible in their language to be saved. We could also talk around what he sees the word 'faith' means. He would have a hard time convincing me he is not a Gnostic, because it sounds as if he's salvation depends on knowledge, not faith and grace. But I'll let him speak for himself.

Andreas said...

@Ryan:

"I would say you're confusing 'unity of the faith' with 'unity of doctrine'."
- I would say that there is neither a unity of faith nor a unity of doctrine within christianity.

"You are also confusing maturity with every-one-believes-the-same-one-size-fits-all doctrine."
- There is a continuum between a perfect consensus and complete disagreement. A consensus is usually considered to be a sign of maturity, especially in science. IMHO, the chart that John posted does not show a development towards a consensus among christians, quite the opposite...

"Ingersoll's quote seems to miss this point too. What if the point is not WHAT you believe but WHO you believe? I believe that IS the point."
- Ingersoll points out that different people understand the bible in different ways. To a neutral observer, it clearly appears to be the case that the bible simply is not clear on many issues. You have bible verses to back up your position, other christians have other verses to back up their position.

"What if God deliberately didn't give all the answers so that we wouldn't have them, which forces us to put our faith in Him rather than put our faith in what we believe."
- Well, to a neutral observer, it appears that god gave no clear answer on anything. Salvation, original sin, the trinity, atonement - I can´t think of any theological position where there is no fundamental disagreement among christians.

"If Breckmin believes what you say he does, he and I can have a conversation around how he expects people who can't read or who have no access to the Bible in their language to be saved."
- You would not need to have a conservation about this at all if the Bible would give clear answers or if the holy spirit would actually exist and aid Christians in understanding the Bible.
To me as a neutral observer, your theological position is just as arbitrary as his - I think your version of christianity is much more likeable / fair, but that does not mean that your faith is any more reasonable.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Let me quote what an old Fundamental, Bible Believing Baptist told a congregation from the pulpit at a revival:

I believe the Bible is The Word of God being 100% true and correct from Genesis to Revelation. So if you don’t agree with the Baptist faith and doctrine; you’re not only disagreeing with the Bible, BUT WITH GOD HIMSELF! Hey, don’t get mad at me! I'm just telling you what God’s Word says because THE BIBLE SAID IT AND I BELIEVE IT!

With that said, isn’t salvation so much simpler now?

Isn’t it nice to know only Baptist will be in Heaven while all the other false Christian religions will be in Hell with Satan who created them? LOL

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Fact is, in the world of faith, the term False Religion is a true oxymoron!

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Hey:

The Bible said it. I believe it. And that settles it!

No, wait. The Bible said it. That settles it! I don’t have to believe it.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Finally (I learned this as a Bible student at Bob Jones University), if you can convert a person to your way of religious thinking, tell them:

There are people frying like bacon in Hell today who believed just like you!

Ryan Peter said...

@ Andreas,

"There is a continuum between a perfect consensus and complete disagreement. A consensus is usually considered to be a sign of maturity, especially in science. IMHO, the chart that John posted does not show a development towards a consensus among christians, quite the opposite..."

You're still assuming a consensus must mean an agreement on the same facts or the same beliefs. Why would it? My wife and I live perfectly happy together yet disagree on many things. We retain our individuality while growing and learning together. The sign of maturity in our relationship is our level of unconditional love towards each other and each taking up their specific roles in the marriage more strongly with greater confidence and grace.

Unlike Science, the church consists of a network of relationships more than anything else. A consensus does not have to be agreement on doctrine, it would be agreement to continue in the relationship and build, learn and grow together, each fulfilling their role. It's about friendships and family.

Remember an eye needs an ear to make a body, but each may have different opinions based on the form of each. An ear may believe the world is all about hearing because it is an ear. Yet it would be wrong. It needs an eye to show it the world is bigger than just hearing. So why should it be a discredit to Christianity that it consists of both eyes and ears who have different opinions?

"Ingersoll points out that different people understand the bible in different ways. To a neutral observer, it clearly appears to be the case that the bible simply is not clear on many issues. You have bible verses to back up your position, other christians have other verses to back up their position."

From a Christian perspective, the Bible IS unclear on many issues. I won't argue against that. I just don't feel this takes away its credibility. Its purpose is to point us towards belief in Christ, not belief on how the world was made or the dimensions of a hell or even its duration or who is in and who is out and a thousand other irrelevant details to its main purpose.

The Genesis story is a picture of this. The tree of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil was the tree God didn't want us to eat from. We've made knowledge the horse, when relationship is the horse and knowledge comes after. My dad was my dad even before I got to know him. Nothing changed that. Relationship always comes FIRST.

"Well, to a neutral observer, it appears that god gave no clear answer on anything. Salvation, original sin, the trinity, atonement - I can´t think of any theological position where there is no fundamental disagreement among christians."

There doesn't have to be a consensus of a theological position for there to be unity. Christianity is not a science, and neither should theology be; it is a spirituality that works in relational dynamics.

None of the theological words you've presented above have any core relevance to these relationships working or even to belief in Christ. They all could help towards the growth of that relationship, but they are not the starting point neither are they relevant to the main issues of love, grace and faith. I don't have to know a thousand facts to trust someone. This does make trust risky, but trust is ALWAYS risky.

Are you sure you take a neutral position? If you're posting around here I would first assume you're taking a skeptical position before you're taking a neutral position. Skepticism is not the same as neutrality.

Gandolf said...

Ryan Peter said... A) These aren't even organic house churches. House churches and organic models do not have 'headquarters' and the like. Maybe you should look at what 'organic' or an organic model means?

When it comes to defining whats organic/house church,i cant help getting the feeling once again christians will be consistant as always.They likely wont agree.This is because they make the game up as they go.Its like a game of bullrush,there is no real rules.Depends on which school you end up at.

http://www.housechurchresource.org/

This guy seems to agree specially talking about house church.Quote-"term "house church" is about as wide an umbrella as the word "plant".

Naturally the new messiah Ryan Peters might like to suggest he can define "organic church" for us,however i still cant help wondering if we might find there will still be very many new messiah`s each claiming they know what "organic church" actually is.

Ryan Peter said--"B) The church is said to have been a branch from a Californian (that's America, by the way) church (according to the news report link you provided). They say they 'lost communication'. Begs the question - was there any real relationship in the first place?

So what? is there something that prevents those loosing touch with other common churches starting their own house church? ..And if the house church flourishes,can they not open their own church building?.Is there some law that stipulates, house churches must never have its own name or sign outside its front gate?.Are south africans not allowed to interpret themselves what they might consider to be house church?

Seems to me house church could simply be a type of splinter group.

Ryan Peter said---"C) Hmmm... how far is South Africa from Nigeria again? Oh yes, a few COUNTRIES away. There's a difference between the southern point of Africa and central Africa..."

http://www.iheu.org/un-publishes-iheu-statement-witchcraft-africa

Ryan Peter this published by the UN suggests quote-- "The age-old belief in the power of witchcraft is still widely held throughout Africa."

Throughout Africa it suggests!.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt#Africa

Wikipedia states ."In parts of Southern Africa several hundred people have been killed in witch hunts since 1990"

Southern Africa Ryan Peter.

Either way no matter what your argument is, this shows up the dangers of faithful superstitions.

Ryan Peter said--"Sorry for the frankness, but I think your reply was absurd."

I dont mind frankness,infact i much prefer frankness to bullshit.Find it absurd all you wish, its no skin off my nose! ...You see im not the faithful person trying to defend ignorance of superstitious beliefs of faithfulness, that are dangerous and can obviously cause idiots to even kill their families as witches.

Ryan Peter said...

Thanks for the entertainment Gandolf. Appreciate it :D

Mike D said...

What a lot of these believers apparently fail to understand is that there is no independent criteria for how one should properly interpret the Bible.

Every denomination insists that this scripture is literal, that one is allegory; this one is a strict rule, that one is a mere guideline; this one is salient, that one was only relevant for the culture at the time.

But without any independent criteria for how the Bible should be interpreted, every one of these interpretations is necessarily arbitrary. Thus Christians, rather than deriving knowledge from the Bible, merely impose their biases upon it.

Ross said...

Well said, Breckmin. Diversity of opinion and expression has been part of Christianity since the year dot. Would you be any more satisfied if all Christians thought alike?