Wandering around the internet, looking for conversations about socio-metaphysical opinions surrounding Christianity and other theological perspectives and religious views, and as a novice of actual in person conversation, and noting that typing into conversations is handicapped by the lack of verbal inflection and facial contortion that might give clues to the actual intended expression of thought, I have found some receptivity for interaction instead of reaction (which are mostly argumentative rather than productive and edifying) for which I am grateful.
(Wow! A whole paragraph in one sentence! That’s a first for me.)
So, finding other people’s thoughts on Christianity has given me a basis for this essay: answers to the criticisms and complaints against Christianity. It certainly doesn’t reply to all, but it’s a start. Look, I am a Christian of sorts. I was raised Presbyterian, an offshoot of Calvinism, a branch of Protestantism, which at the outset came from the Roman Catholic tradition, which began three hundred years after the first Christians gathered together, who were called people of the Way and were meeting in small groups at other believers’ homes.
Fifty years ago, I became a part of the latter. Fifty years is a long time. So, there’s lots of room in my Christian history as for both personal screw ups and in wrongly held beliefs and denominational indoctrinations taught based on the wrongly held beliefs of religious leadership. There has also been plenty of time to learn. I’m not trying to put myself out there as some Doctor of Divinity. I just work for a living, as the saying goes (even though I’m now retired).
Now, I used to love Sunday School with the Bible stories and all. Then, I became a teenager and couldn’t wait to get out of there. Church services? My Dad had to use threats to force me to go. I’ve come to appreciate my parents’ attempts to bring a standard of morality and responsibility into my rebellious adolescence, but as for adults, I am not recommending attending or becoming a member of any denomination simply out of duty or obligation — whether your own or someone else’s. In fact, I even have trouble trusting the many so-called “non-denominational” denominations! Even the “Full Gospel” groups are really not teaching the full gospel, but have substituted principles of capitalism instead. So, I can relate to the plethora of criticisms leveled against Christianity. The existential benefits of the stories remembered from Sunday School, however, eventually developed an eternal benefit, for which I am, of course eternally grateful…
Notwithstanding all of that, I must point out that the many criticisms I’ve heard can also be leveled against any one, any one in a group, or any group in general — not necessarily Christian ones. “They’re all hypocrites.” “Two faced.” “They don’t practice what they preach.” Or generically, “They don’t even live up to their own standards.” Heck, you can use that last one against any pro sports team!
Back to the main… A glaring deficiency in one criticism of Christianity, which arises out of interpretation of Bible scriptures, is basing arguments on Sunday School memories of “dumbed down” versions to be understood by elementary school children. They shouldn’t be utilized in fundamental and contemplative bases for adult discussions The critiques should then be conveyed to Publishers of children’s books — books which are not intended to be comprehensive treatises, multi-volume tomes too heavy for a child to carry and too complex for most adults to understand.
To illustrate, in the book of Genesis, there was some kind of forbidden fruit, but it was not the beleagered apple, and since God told Mankind to “be fruitful and multiply, the “apple” could not be an allegorical representation meaning “sex.” The problem was God said not to eat fruit off just that one particular tree, but they were talked into taking a bite. Therefore, disobedience was the original sin. What followed in their attempts to cover up and to justify their disobedience was the second original sin: blaming “the other.’’ Today, the examples are obvious and the nuts still don’t fall very far from the trees: “The devil made me do it” “All my friends are doing it.” “But Maaaa! He made me!”
Few, if any, are willing to take responsibility, for mistakes of any size, especially for serious errors which were purposely chosen. Even fewer are willing to clean up after themselves, let alone others. To get out of any association with an “incident,” we still try to cover it up or ignore it, pretending it didn’t happen… In fact, “This is the first I’ve heard of it.” Profaned ignorance. Then, as I just said, and as we progressively trend downward, “The devil made me do it!” Or, “It’s all her fault!” (or his or their)… Nothing new under the sun? Yes. “Nothing to see here. Move along. Keep moving…”
Next, Adam and Eve weren’t the first humans. God didn’t call Eve the “mother of all living.” Adam did. Also, up to the point of getting kicked out of the Garden, I’m pretty sure they weren’t even aware other people existed. They had had a very secluded and sheltered life. Outside their isolated and protected environs, everything was new and probably scary.
Anyways, regarding this assertion, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, chapter one, after God created the whole universe and every living thing, God first created Mankind, saw everything He created was good to go, and then, after He took a day off to relax, He created Adam and Eve. (I must interject here that God exists in eternity where time is not a factor, a variant, or a vector. “To God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.” — 2 Peter 3:8. So, He didn’t have to punch in and out on His factory’s timeclock. He both made and makes His own schedule.) Now, Adam and Eve were the first persons specifically set apart for God’s special purposes — a pattern that God continued throughout Bible history. For examples, setting apart Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah and many others along the way — again for His own purposes. Therefore, the whole story is consistent with the plausibility of ensuing stories, and answers to such questions as, “Where did Cain’s wives come from?” It also clarifies the distinction inferred by the story that “the sons of God (lineage of Adam and Eve) saw the daughters of men (the descendents of Mankind) as very attractive and married many of them.” (see Genesis 6) We are, therefore, one big family. Think about that when you are considering throwing apples at your neighbors!
There are many doctrines that come from such misinterpretations of the Bible. Perhaps this will help refine my point: The Bible does not contradict itself; we contradict the Bible. Our trying to make sense of bad translating is a futile endeavor and leads to criticizing Christianity without a foundation to do so, without justification, without knowledge. Certainly there are things we do not understand when reading the Bible. They can be mysteries to us. But they are not mysteries to God. At some later time, the mysteries may be resolved as we learn stuff. There’s an old Gospel song that says in part,”Farther along we’ll know all about it. Farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up, my brothers! Live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all, by and by.”
We don’t jump from kindergarten right into MIT. We don’t start the race at the Finish Line. And here is something I’ve come to realize about the literary style often found in the Bible, and it pertains to Genesis. It is to slow down the reading, way down, to the pace of the storyteller and whoever was doing the actual writing. Try to remember that computers didn’t exist, and words had to be inked on papyrus or carved into clay. In this mindset I have come to understand the scriptures are not exactly sequential. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a jumbled mishmash: A story is laid out completely, and another story, perhaps more intricate and detailed, is then laid out atop of it. It is very much like modern movie making with all the sequels and prequels — “Star Wars’’ and “The Avengers” come to mind. Comprende?
Okay. Here’s another one: Does the Bible say that salvation is found in no other than one or another Christian denomination? Are there different denominational heavens? Or, rather, does the Bible say salvation is found in no other person than Jesus who is called the Christ (Messiah)? Do we receive forgiveness and restoration and eternal life in Church Membership? (Yawn.) Or do we have to be, as Jesus said, “born again” (John 3:3) and so beginning a journey to eternity? Is there a real Hell as described by the Dark Ages? Or was that just a mixing of nightmares and a paralyzing manipulation, a corruption and a slurring of the Hebrew word “sheol”? Sheol is thought to be the realm where people go when they die. It’s counterpart is called “Abraham’s bosom.” A person has to go somewhere. Right? Because, after all, a person is a spirit existing in a physical body, quickened at some point from conception to birth. Right? Or is this all just a dream? Pinch yourself. Are you awake? As I see it, every person has a soul.
Okay, now I can understand that it’s no wonder folks don’t want anything to do with Christianity. An awful lot of churches just make things up as they go. They don’t know. They haven’t been born again. They haven’t even begun to follow the Way. They are pretenders, making up the rules as they go. Their theology evolves and mutates and follows social trends when their theology should be, conversely, inspiring social trends! You know. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told the religious leaders of His era the very same thing (see Matthew 15). Why do we feel we have to make up answers, whether there is an actual question or not and whether or not we actually know the answer? Regardless, there are plenty of answers in the Bible, if looked for them earnestly and honestly. When we do run into a mystery, a person is told to ask, to talk to God about it, a special type of conversation called “prayer” and to strain to hear. Reading the Bible, you might also stumble over an answer or two…
Prayer has fallen into disrepute, because it has become something other than it is supposed to be. It is supposed to go two ways. We talk. Then, we listen. God talks. We wait. We listen. Not hearing anything? That is, because we have to first establish a connection. We have to pay for a phone. Oops… Jesus bought phones for us and has paid all the charges. You just have to go where all the bars light up. Yup. Jesus paid it all, and unless you are born again the connection just doesn’t exist. Maybe if you yell real loud…
I’d like to go on into discussing some of the religious theories rambling around out there. You know the spot theories lacking in anything close to a comprehensive congruity all the way to complex, unending, contradicting, self-serving, mutating, elusive contortions that strain credibility. Impossible to understand seems to be just another cover up. You know, stuff we make up to escape blame and responsibility, hiding to try to escape consequences…
I hope this begins to clarify things for you.
Anyways, thanks for taking the time to listen.