Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Religion and Baby - it's back, baby!

Readers might have noticed posts appearing and disappearing over the last few days. Hopefully now the lines of communication have been reestablished, this shouldn't happen again.

So after a three day absence, here's the reappearance of my last post - which, as I mentioned before, is an angry, opinionated rant that's bound to offend good Christians everywhere...

As readers of my blog will know, I stopped believing in God over six months ago and since then have taken a very dim view of Christianity (or the popular American derivation of it.) (See the addendum below for some clarification about this.)

But with baby's long term upbringing to consider, it's been agreed to give him a somewhat traditional introduction to religion.

I don't think this is a bad thing at all. I mean, while I don't believe in God, I'm still interested in the history and politics of Christianity and can't help but acknowledge the enormous importance The Bible has had in the development and history of western civilisation.

The Bible as (bad) Literature.

Learning about the Bible is still a valid and important thing and whether my son eventually believes in it or not, he'll still benefit from a firm comprehension of the Christian religion.

Also, it's very important not to impose one's own beliefs on your children. It's up to them to make their own minds up - when they're old enough.

The success of the more militant evangelical groups in America's Midwest seems to come from parents brainwashing their offspring as early as possible (I recommend watching the terrifying documentary Jesus Camp to see how valid this accusation is.)

Hopefully, my wife and I can give our son a broad base of knowledge with which to reach his own conclusion when he's grown up a little.

But when it comes to Christianity, what's the most appropriate sect to follow?

What flavour of Christianity do you fancy?

Well, as a historian I'm pretty old school about this. There are only two truly valid forms of Christianity. Catholic and Orthodox. They date back practically to the Biblical period itself and in the western world, all modern scripture and canon originates with the Catholic church.

However, raising our son as a Catholic isn't really a practical proposition. For a start, I'm not a Catholic myself and I certainly have no intention of going through the motions to 'pretend' to be one for the sake of him joining that church.

Secondly, and more importantly, the Catholic church is a wildly corrupt and cynical organisation headed by an octogenarian former Nazi. Plus the John Jay Report revealed that between 1950 and 2002, 4% of Catholic priests had been embroiled in accusations of child sexual molestation and that's hardly the environment I want to expose my son to!

Throw in some of the more recent decisions the Catholic church has made - like angrily declaring the use of condoms in AIDS raddled Africa as a Biblical sin - and it's fairly obvious that the Catholic church is no place for anybody capable of making rational decisions!

But where does that leave us?

Splinter Groups

Well, if there's one thing America has, it's thousands of protestant Churches. Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals... The list goes on and on and on - leaving us with a rather generic wad of mediocre protestants who add up to a whopping 80 million Church going Americans!

I have several issues with the idea of joining any of these Churches, though. For a start, tracing the history of any splinter group of modern Christianity generally reveals them to have begun for cynical, flawed and 'human' reasons rather than any particular spiritual imperative.

Protestants broke away from the Catholic church because they didn't want to give money to the Pope, or they wanted their priests to have families, or any of a thousands similarly inane reasons. Scripture rarely comes into it and if it does, it's used as a cover to rationalize a more practical reason to abandon the Catholic church.

What really annoys me about the dreary evangelical movement is their blithe decision to pick and choose which scripture they like and which they don't. Leviticus says it's a sin to 'lay with another man,' so they oppose homosexuality. Leviticus also said it's an equal sin to eat shellfish, but go to any 'pot luck' Church picnic and somebody will have brought a shrimp cocktail along!

Three first hand accounts of Jesus' life never recorded him saying anything against homosexuality. Paul, a guy who'd never even met Jesus, attributed anti-gay rhetoric to the King of Kings and conservative Christians accept it.

In fact, they'll pick and choose any out-of-context scripture if it appears to support their 'family values.' And that's the problem... The evangelical movement is Christianity cynically marketed towards the lowest common denominator.

It's scriptually unsound and, when you delve a little deeper into the evangelical movement's murky history (throw in the Klu Klux Klan, adultery, embezzlement, homosexuality and homophobia) it's pretty clear that the movement is fairly morally bankrupt as well.

So where does that leave us?

Well, in the end there was only one clear choice for me when it came to our son's spiritual upbringing - but it's an organisation that is tarred by almost all of the flaws I've mentioned above.

The Anglican, Episcopalian, Church of England.

The Anglican church began life in exactly the same cynical, political manner as any other form of protestantism.

King Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage to his wife, Catherine of Aragon. The Pope refused to allow him to do this (as he'd actually make a papal decree making the marriage legitimate in the first place.) Angry and frustrated, King Henry split from the Catholic Church and established a 'Church of England' of which he was the head.

This had the added benefit of allowing him to ransack the Catholic Churches and monasteries, which swiftly made his bankrupt nation one of the richest in the world.

There were pages and pages of scriptural and spiritual analysis written to 'justify' the break from the Catholic church, but looking at the facts it's difficult to see the foundation of the Church of England as anything other than a cynical political move by an unscrupulous (but brilliant) monarch.

However, since that time, the Anglican church has remained pretty true to itself and it's adhesion to certain Catholic traditions make it a comfortable compromise for many churchgoers. This, plus some excellent missionary work during Britain's empire days, has helped make the Episcopalian Church the third largest in the world.

I am, of course, very comfortable with the Anglican Church. My grandfather was a vicar and a Chaplin in the RAF. I was raised in the days before religion was banned from schools, so we sung hymns at assembly and went to the Harvest Festival at the local Anglican Church. I attended a theological college (to study history, admittedly) and dated a priestess-in-training, so I wound up going to Church far more often than I'd liked!

In fact, several of my university buddies have ended up being ordained or working in the church, so it's a body I've continued to be associated with for most of my life.

Not to mention, the Anglican church - even if you're attending services in America, Africa or elsewhere - has a irrevocable streak of Englishness about it that I am excited to expose our little Anglo-American boy to.

My wife is also unopposed to raising our son as an Anglican, because the Episcopalian church services resemble Catholic ones and it's a respectable, established church instead of one of these fly-by-night offshoots America seems littered with (what the hell is the difference between the denominations of Baptists and why do they all hate each other so much?)

Problems with the Anglican Church

Of course, one of the problems with the Anglican church is that right at this second it's basically self destructing. In Canterbury, Bishops are gathering for the annual Lambeth conference and there's enormous controversy surrounding it.

This is because the Anglican church is traditionally fairly progressive - which is why I prefer them to the Catholic church (whose attitudes towards homosexuality, sexuality and 'sin' borders on the crazy.) But even the liberal church finds itself divided over the issue of openly gay priests (the first openly gay Bishop was recently ordained in New Hampshire) and the idea of female Bishops (which was recently introduced.)

Vast numbers of Bishops are boycotting the Lambeth conference to protest these progressive moves and even though I'm fairly liberal and have no issues with gay or female priests or bishops, I can't really blame them given some of the rubbish that comes out of the Archbishop of Canterbury's mouth.

That being said, one of the reasons I'm starkly opposed to the American evangelical movement is because they spend so much time and energy ranting and raving against homosexuality and female equality. Whatever happens, I'm not prepared to embroil my son in any religion that uses poorly interpreted scripture as an excuse to be actively homophobic or misogynistic.

More important to me than any religious rubbish are the founding principles of American society - the inalienable right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' I don't have to approve of gay marriage or female priests, but since the lifestyle choices these people make do not affect myself or my family in any way, it is deeply hypocritical and unAmerican to infringe their rights simply because I don't approve of them!

This is America. Freedom is our most important commodity. What terrifies me about exposing my son to any form of organised religion is that Christians are actively campaigning to erode people's freedoms every single day.

But, like I said. I can introduce my son to my own opinions and beliefs, but as a responsible parent I should ensure he makes his own decision about things. I just hope (since I can't pray to a God I don't believe in) that he makes the right ones.

Addendum:

Since writing this, I have been asked to clarify my position towards religion and the existence of God, so here goes:

I am not opposed to the concept of a ‘higher power’ because, in many ways, it seems so wildly improbable that this ONE planet in this enormous solar system could just randomly produce life… and of that life this ONE type of monkey randomly develop language and music and art and Cheverolets… While the rest live in the trees and all the other planets are barren rocks.

It's so random. So unlikely. When you look at the probabilities like that, it seems insane that there’s any other explanation for the existence of humanity.

In many ways, it’s like the world’s an experiment. A Petri dish. An art project. And if that's the case, there HAS to be a God-like scientist, chemist or art student overseeing the whole thing…

So while I might not believe in it myself, I certainly don't entirely discount the possibility of this 'higher power.' What I do discount - absolutely and with extreme prejudice, is the concept of a Christian God.

The God described in the Bible is irrational and contradictory. He falls totally flat from the get-go, especially with things like the concept of good and evil, or the Christian God being ‘good’ but letting bad things happen.

The tsunami killed millions for no good reason. If ‘God’ is the ultimate power, who controls everything, why did he decide to do that?

How the word was created is a mystery, and while I definitely lean towards atheist rather than agnostic, a deity could exist. However, I firmly refuse to believe in the Christian God. He seems so hypocritical. So false. So wrong.

I mean, what’s up with the Book of Job? God made the man’s life a total misery to prove a point to Satan? To win an arguement? That makes God an enormous... Well, I won't say what it makes God, at the risk of offending one of my readers. Let's just say that it doesn't make God a very nice man at all.

And I don’t like the idea of original sin. When I look at my sleeping son, he looks so sweet and innocent and I hate the concept of a religion that’s condemning him to hell until he’s baptized and grows up to accept Jesus Christ as his savior. I mean, the Bible says we have free will, but it’s not exactly free will when the deal is: ‘Accept Christ or go to hell.’ That’s not free will at all! It's slavery!

So just to clarify, my athiest pretentions are more theological in nature than philosophical. Believing in science and reason might answer more questions can Christianity ever could - but the big ones still remain unanswered.

21 comments:

EmmaK said...

wow! and I thought I overthought things!

you are right, many religious nuts here are trying to erode personal freedoms. That cannot be right.

That is a v tough dilemma, your wife being catholic and you being atheist. I have recently gone off religion myself, I have a spiritual leaning, but every time I join a church I get dissillusioned by the politics.

Coffee Bean said...

Very interesting post Roland!

I do see things a little differently, of course.

First of all, I should tell you that I find all the denominational differences annoying. Before too long, you will be introducing Dr. Seuss to your Martin. At least, I hope so! One of my favorites is the story of the Sneetches. In case your are not familiar with the story, some Sneetches have stars on their bellies and others do not. A guy invents a machine to put stars on and take them off and in the process the Sneetches cannot remember who is better than who. To me, the differences in doctrine between denominations is like those stars. They don't really matter.

For me, in my life, what is important is love. We are all fallen. No one is without sin. Do you remember the story of when some men were about to stone an adultress? Jesus told them that he who was without sin was to cast the first stone. No one did. Jesus was without sin and he did not cast a stone.

I go to a church that goes through the bible verse by verse. Our time is not spent listening to topical discussions. We are simply studying the Bible in context. In fact, when I read my bible on my own... I often read backwards. What was said before the last verse? What is it saying when all put together?

I shared my questions on my blog. Sometimes it is not easy for me. But, I do believe with all of my heart. I am not without sin. Any self-righteousness I had in the past... I can't continue. The things you've said about Christians and Christianity do not make me angry. I do not feel threatened by your opinions.

I do not want to force what I believe on others. But, I do see some things very differently than you in regard to Christians trying to take the rights of others away. Our government was based on Christian principles. It is through Christianity that the idea of freedom even comes from. Something has gone very wrong here. Just look at the past 50 or so years. Christians in this country have been losing rights. It has been going on a long time. It seems to me that the tide turned and where we are supposed to have freedom of religion here... it has become freedom of religion unless you are a Christian. Can you not see that?

Case in point right here in my own town... One of the local high schools here has a support group for lesbians that meets at lunch. There was also a bible study group that met at lunch. The school said that there could not be a bible study group... but the lesbian group was allowed. Why can't both groups meet? Because in many cases Christians now no longer have the same freedoms. The very laws based on Christian principles of freedom are being used to take those freedoms away. Does that make sense to you?

Here in Colorado a law was just passed that men can use women's restrooms in public places if he feels he is really a woman. How that got through, I will never understand. Whose to say that men who are predators will not take advantage of that? Is there some kind of flashing sign on the foreheads of men that really feel they are women to put us at ease? No. It is assinine. What percentage of men are there that believe they are really women? 1% of the population? 5% of the population? How did we get here? The rights of the minority trump the rights of all else these days. I don't get it?

Can you explain it to me?

Coffee Bean said...

Hi Roland!

I'm glad you added the addendum. I do see where you are coming from and I understand exactly what you are grappling with. Truthfully, it is hard to find people that are willing to put what they believe out there and discuss it with people with opposing views without it getting ugly. I really appreciate that about you.

The Chemist said...

I demand you raise you raise your spawn to be an acolyte of Cthulhu!

pamokc said...

I am so thrilled to read such an well-articulated evaluation of religion and Christianity and the church. In my area of the country, however, the *Anglicans* are breaking away from the Episcopalians so they can continue the anti-gay rant. They have had to align themselves with South American or African churches to remain in the Anglican communion.

My English husband has been very comfortable with the Episcopalian service. I was raised almost without churching, I can totally identify with your statement of parents teaching the children what they need to know from the Bible and accordingly, life's lessons.

But when the husband got me into attending services at the local Episcopal church, and going through a little introduction course, I totally **GOT** Christianity in a way I had never done before by attending various other denominations on occasion.

Well done you. I appreciate the open-minded discussion. Almost to the point of asking if we could publish this in our church newsletter. If it weren't for that athiest bit maybe ...

PAM

Anonymous said...

Chevrolet.

Um, What I dislike about Methodists is:

The creed has an asterisk in it. At the part where it says, "I believe in the holy catholic church.*"
I do not want a disclaimer in my creed. Below, at the bottom of the page, it says, "* catholic = universal."

And,

In the Methodist hymnal, there is a command from the founder of the methodist church that says you must sing the hymns. Sing "lustily" it says. Strange. Maybe the meaning of lust has changed in 250 years?

Anonymous said...

"Also, it's very important not to impose one's own beliefs on your children. It's up to them to make their own minds up - when they're old enough"

Says who? If you think your beliefs are right, then why would you not impose your beliefs on your children. Right from wrong, moral from immoral, good from bad, Spanish from English, you're child is only what you make it.

Roland Hulme said...

"Impose."

It's that word. Nobody should ever 'impose' their beliefs on anybody.

If you expose your children to your beliefs and they are right, they will be beliefs your children adopt. They will have adopted them through informed, consensual choice.

Because informed, consensual choice will never net them new acolytes, people like the 'Jesus Camp' nutjobs are forced to brainwash their children, which is essentially child abuse in my book.

Besides, if 'imposing' your beliefs is the only way to pass them onto your kids, they're pretty shitty beliefs in the first place.

ck said...

Roland,
This post explains a lot of your issues with church... you aren't as knowledgeable as you may think.

There are only two truly valid forms of Christianity. Catholic and Orthodox.

That could not be further from the truth! The Catholic and Orthodox church did not really start until about 400 AD (even though they may claim differently). Then the Protestants revolted, as you said to the Pope and formed the Reformation Movement which meant they wanted the church to be as it was in 400 AD. While still keeping many of the unBiblical teachings that the Catholic church has. Finally in 1600 King James made the first widely available (non Italian) version of scripture. This revolutionized the church world wide, as people saw that even the church at 400AD had greatly left Christianity. So they started going to represent the church in the first century. This is where you get a large amount of the division in America.

But if all you are willing to accept are the churches whose theological background start at 400 AD, you will find yourself wanting more.

I REALLY wish we lived close to each other, I'm fairly certain your faith in God could be restored with a proper perspective.

And to the comment made that:
To me, the differences in doctrine between denominations is like those stars. They don't really matter.

Again, this can't be further from the truth. The Bible even agree's with me. (from memory, so sorry if I type something slightly incorrect) 1 Timothy 4:16 - Watch your life and doctrine closely and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Doctrine is important, period.

Now we could debate forever the 'selective scriptures' because at one point I agree. On the other you are building a very weak straw man argument. I can eat shell fish because in the New Testament I am told that all food is clean. However the New Testament speaks boldly against homosexuality, even Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6). There is a reason that many Christians don't follow the Jewish law in the New Testament. We are under a different covenant. We aren't being selective, but wise. Don't confuse the two.

Finally lets talk about the children thing. I again disagree with you completely. A post on my blog covers it well. Here is the quote from a book I was reading that I quoted on my blog:


At this point, let's examine a popular misconception. It goes something like this: "I want my child to learn to make his own decisions after he is exposed to everything. He shouldn't feel he has to believe what I believe. I want him to learn about different religions and philosophies; then when he has grown up he can make his own decision."

This parent is copping out or else is grossly ignorant of the world we live in. a child brought up in this manner is indeed one to be pitied. Without continual guidance and clarification in ethical, moral, and spiritual matters, he will become increasingly confused about his world. There are reasonable answers to many of life's conflicts and seeming contradictions. One of the finest gifts parents can give a child is a clear, basic understanding of the world and its confusing problems. Without this stable base of knowledge and understanding, is it any wonder many children cry to their parents, "Why didn't you give me a meaning for all this? What's it all about?"

-Skip a page and a half or so-

There is a lot of truth in the old statement, "Experience is the best teacher." Let him share in yours. The sooner a child learns to trust God, the stronger he will become.

ck said...

I need to clarify something I said wrong.

The protestant movement is really two movements in one.
The first part is the reformist, they wanted to reform the church. The second said that the Catholic church is just wrong. Nothing reforming could ever fix, so they basically started over.

Roland Hulme said...

Hey CK! Thanks for your comment. I figured this would be a lively topic to discuss with you.

I have to admit, I don't agree with a lot of what you wrote:

"You aren't as knowledgeable as you may think" - Ha! This is probably a VERY valid statement about all sorts of things I claim wisdom regarding. That being said, how come every time I discuss theology with a Christian, this is the first line I hear? Remember, I have joint honors degrees in history from a theological university, so I arrogantly claim to know a little about that I'm talking about!

I wrote: "There are only two truly valid forms of Christianity. Catholic and Orthodox."

You wrote: "That could not be further from the truth! The Catholic and Orthodox church did not really start until about 400 AD (even though they may claim differently)."

Actually, that's not true. I think you're getting confused with the law Emperor Theodosius I enacted in 380, which established Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire and cemented much of it's theology.

Catholicism existed long before that - as a legitimate religion in 313, when Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan and as a cult persecuted by the Romans dating right back to the days of Peter and Paul themselves.

The foundations of the Catholic faith - mainly the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and, of course, it's physical location in Rome - indicate that the Catholic church existed in a primitive form during the first century AD - within the lifespan of that old fraud Paul.That means the Catholic church dates back to the days of Christ himself! There was no 'interim' church and Catholicism didn't just 'pop up' in 380 AD.

You wrote: "The Reformation Movement wanted the church to be as it was in 400 AD. While still keeping many of the unBiblical teachings that the Catholic church has."

I find this a very confusing statement. What WAS the church like before what you claim to be the arrival of Catholicism.

I'll tell you what it was - a bloody great mess. It resembled the Catholic church as it became in 380, but also followed wildly different beliefs a good Christian such as yourself would never approve of!

I think we've touched on this before, when we debated what is and isn't canon in the Bible. Back before the 382 Council of Rome established what was officially Canon in the Bible, the scripture of Christianity was much broader and encompassed many different works by many different authors - some of them valid and some of them pseudepigraphical (and I think some of those wound up in the Bible 'proper.')

While the church as it was before the Council of Rome was clearly, unequivically Catholic (the existence of the Bishops is enough to prove that) what doctrines and beliefs and texts they followed weren't organised into what we call today's Bible. There were hundreds of 'books' of Scripture that were all considered valid and 'canon' even though many of them contradicted each other.

To claim that the Reformation movement was intended to return the church to as it was before the 380 Council of Rome is to claim two things:

1: That you agree with fundemental Catholic heirarchy, like Apostolic Succession, which already existed before 380 in one form or another (and I know the evangelical movement clearly doesn't follow this!)
2: That you reject the canonicity of the Bible, since before 380, all sorts of scripture was considered canon and the Bible as you know it today was only a fraction of all the Biblical text kicking about. Things like the book of Adam and Eve (which is also in the Quran) the Book of Jubilees (which indicates that Adam and Eve's children were incestual) and the Book of Enoch (which had some red hot Angel/Human mating action and gave a whole different slant to the story of the Great Flood.) These were all ommitted from the 'official' Bible in 382 (even though the Book of Enoch is mentioned in 'approved' scripture like Genesis, Hebrews and Jude.

No - let's look at the facts. I'll admit what I wrote was cynical and mean spririted, so I'll embrace the official party line.

The Reformation Movement started by Martin Luther was intended to do one thing and one thing only - reject certain clearly corrupt practices the Catholic Church was indulging in.

Like, they invented the whole concept of Purgatory. This is because they offered 'Indulgences,' which was a cynical way to scam money out of rich people when they died. If these rich people thought they were going to tell, they'd pay money for the Catholic church to set up prayer vigils for them and help them escape hell and go to heaven (cha-ching for the Catholic church.)

The only problem with this concept? If the rich people weren't going to hell - and they weren't going to heaven until these prayer vigils happened - where exactly did their souls go?

So the Catholic church INVENTED purgatory. It has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. It's purely a convenient concept for scamming money out of people.

THAT'S the sort of thing the Reformation movement rejected. It has nothing to do with 'returning the church' to how it was in 400AD. Martin Luther was simply trying to do away with the corruption and lies implicit in the Catholic Church.

So I will admit - I was being very mean spirited when I said ALL forms of Protestantism were false and wrong. The basis of Lutherism has some legitimacy (much more than the Catholic church in the first place!)

But the next great Reformation - the foundation of the Church of England - was the first in the great protestant scams. Even you can't argue that King Henry VIII only started the Church of England so he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and steal all the money from the monks.

The rest of the protestant sects that have sprung up all follow cynical little things like this. Many of them are no more than cults (like the Latter Day Saints.)

Just one last thing (I'm probably boring the pants off you) what you wrote about the King James Bible is very interesting and you have a very valid point about it.

The King James Bible is a magnificent book - scholars used the original Koine Greek texts to write an English language version of the Bible. It's the first and most legitimate translation of the Bible.

HOWEVER - many protestant sects, especially in America, don't use the King James. They use different translations (like the Good News Bible) which aren't literal translations. Many claim to be conceptual translations - translating the 'ideas' of the Bible, rather than the actual words - and, in doing so, letting the authors insert their own ideas and beliefs. This means things in one Bible are STARKLY different to things in another Bible.

Look at Matthew 5:22. Compare the King James and any other version. I, for one, believe that this passage proves that the Evangelical movement's crusade against homosexuality (based on their interpretation of Bibles OTHER than the King James) is firmly rooted in a falsehood.

Roland Hulme said...

Hey CK - just caught your second comment. Interesting a valid addition - although you wrote "the Catholic church is just wrong. Nothing reforming could ever fix, so they basically started over."

'Started over' except they're using the same scriptural basis. It was the Catholic Church in 382 which decided what the officially approved Bible was. although the King James was translated from the original Koine Greek, it's still the same limited 'approved' document rubber stamped by the Catholics in 400 AD (although I don't know if they had rubber stamps then.)

Protestantism isn't 'starting over.' It's just picking and choosing which bits of Catholicism they want to keep and which bits are inconvenient (like priests not being allowed to marry, etc.)

ck said...

"You aren't as knowledgeable as you may think" - Ha! This is probably a VERY valid statement about all sorts of things I claim wisdom regarding. That being said, how come every time I discuss theology with a Christian, this is the first line I hear? Remember, I have joint honors degrees in history from a theological university, so I arrogantly claim to know a little about that I'm talking about!


Sorry man, education means squat when it comes to religion. As all teachings are done with some skewed glasses, and in your case... highly skewed. Kind of like what schools like to teach about American History.


I wrote: "There are only two truly valid forms of Christianity. Catholic and Orthodox."

You wrote: "That could not be further from the truth! The Catholic and Orthodox church did not really start until about 400 AD (even though they may claim differently)."

Actually, that's not true. I think you're getting confused with the law Emperor Theodosius I enacted in 380, which established Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire and cemented much of it's theology.

Catholicism existed long before that - as a legitimate religion in 313, when Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan and as a cult persecuted by the Romans dating right back to the days of Peter and Paul themselves.


Of all of this I am aware, but it wasn't until it became official, that it became what some now see as the foundation of the church.

The foundations of the Catholic faith - mainly the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and, of course, it's physical location in Rome - indicate that the Catholic church existed in a primitive form during the first century AD - within the lifespan of that old fraud Paul.That means the Catholic church dates back to the days of Christ himself! There was no 'interim' church and Catholicism didn't just 'pop up' in 380 AD.

And THIS is where the flawed teaching kicks in. The Catholic church had to prove that the Apostolic Succession went from Jesus on, so they made sure to make it seem like the Catholic church (in its primitive form) existed, when in reality it didn't.

I find this a very confusing statement. What WAS the church like before what you claim to be the arrival of Catholicism.

I'll tell you what it was - a bloody great mess. It resembled the Catholic church as it became in 380, but also followed wildly different beliefs a good Christian such as yourself would never approve of!


All of this is correct! The church did have some beliefs that one like me would hate. I REALLY THINK that the American church is JUST LIKE the first century church. On one end of the spectrum you have people that think the Bible means what it says, on the other you have the people that think tradition (or personal preference) is what is accurate. The first century church had a word for these folks, Gnostics. They were JUST LIKE our new age people today. Perverting the gospel to make it say all kinds of things.

I think we've touched on this before, when we debated what is and isn't canon in the Bible. Back before the 382 Council of Rome established what was officially Canon in the Bible, the scripture of Christianity was much broader and encompassed many different works by many different authors - some of them valid and some of them pseudepigraphical (and I think some of those wound up in the Bible 'proper.')


Well your a bit wrong, and a bit right. The Bible today is largely influenced by the Catholic church. But open up your Catholic Bible and you'll see some differences. And the canon was made due to what was largely accepted as the New Testament over 300 years. Were their more letters? Yes. were some of them false letters? YES. Were some of them just as true as what we have today? YES. But the ones from reputable folks compliment the Bible, the Gnostic influenced ones don't.

While the church as it was before the Council of Rome was clearly, unequivically Catholic (the existence of the Bishops is enough to prove that)

This is where you don't understand Biblical leadership. Bishops do nothing to prove that the Catholic church is the church.

There were hundreds of 'books' of Scripture that were all considered valid and 'canon' even though many of them contradicted each other.

This again is where you are wrong. Think about today's culture. If you were to take 100 leaders and ask each of them to write what was right and wrong, you'd get a lot of the same... but you'd get some that would come saying that homosexual marriage is OK, and Abortion is OK, and the British are OK... while the rest are against all of those ;-). This is where the American Church is just like the First century church. False teachers are nothing new. Just read the New Testament.

Just one last thing (I'm probably boring the pants off you) what you wrote about the King James Bible is very interesting and you have a very valid point about it.

The King James Bible is a magnificent book - scholars used the original Koine Greek texts to write an English language version of the Bible. It's the first and most legitimate translation of the Bible.

HOWEVER - many protestant sects, especially in America, don't use the King James. They use different translations (like the Good News Bible) which aren't literal translations. Many claim to be conceptual translations - translating the 'ideas' of the Bible, rather than the actual words - and, in doing so, letting the authors insert their own ideas and beliefs. This means things in one Bible are STARKLY different to things in another Bible.


OK, now you misspeak again. There are three main kinds of translations.
1. Literal Translations - KJV, ASV, etc... these are word for word. This is similiar to translating French to English, you'd get sentances that read like "I went through the door white". While word for word accurate, the thought is not. This is where the second translation group comes in.
2. Dynamic Translations - NIV, etc... These are thought for thought. So instead of "I went through the door white, it would be I went through the white door. Says the same thing, just a bit clearer to our culture and language.
3. Free Tranlsations. The Message, Word, etc.. these are as you say just a paraphrase and widely vary.

Now to use just one of these for your Bible study is foolishness. I use two (sort of). I read the NIV day to day. I then go to the Greek when I want to go deeper. But occasionaly I will pull out the ASV to read from it to get a better view of things.

Onto your argument about the KJV being the 'most legitimate translation'. This is absolutely absent of facts. Since the KJV was written we have found many more transcripts and outside sources quoting the Canoned books. New translations take those into account, the KJV does not. That would be like saying cancer research is better 40 years ago then today.

A good book about all of this is the second edition of "How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth". The third edition is flawed due to the writers (Gordon and Fee) falling victim to the very things they warn against in the book. I've read this book 3 times.


Look at Matthew 5:22. Compare the King James and any other version. I, for one, believe that this passage proves that the Evangelical movement's crusade against homosexuality (based on their interpretation of Bibles OTHER than the King James) is firmly rooted in a falsehood.


Don't see the connection.

Protestantism isn't 'starting over.' It's just picking and choosing which bits of Catholicism they want to keep and which bits are inconvenient (like priests not being allowed to marry, etc.)


At one level you are right, but this is a hard point to be wrong at. Were the Catholics 100% wrong? No. So some of the good came with the new movements. You call it picking and choosing, I call it being a Berean.

Roland Hulme said...

Hey CK! Very good response - nailed me on a couple of issues which I'll get to later.

You've written a lot of sense and it's clarified your position on some things I was confused about. However, there are some things you've written that surprise me - like:

"Education means squat when it comes to religion. As all teachings are done with some skewed glasses, and in your case... highly skewed. Kind of like what schools like to teach about American History."

What? Blink? **Sits down and shakes his head for a second.**

I fundementally disagree with this statement. I guess I can see where you're coming from - of course ALL teaching is biased in some degree. For example, I studied religion from a Anglo-Catholic perspective.

But 'education means squat?' No, that's utter rubbish. Education means everything. If you are not educated, your opinions are absolutely meaningless - especially regarding religion. And, in rebuttal, a lot of what you've written shows that you yourself ARE educated about religion.

I think you're having difficult seperating FACT from OPINION. In schools, you all learn the same FACTS, but are taught from different perspectives of OPINION.

You can debate OPINION, but you can't debate FACT and if you don't use fact to back up your opinion, your opinion is utterly meaningless.

Now youy (CK's) opinion clearly ISN'T worthless, because you've debated different skews on things, but both your arguments and mine seem to hang on the same factual lynchpins.

"And THIS is where the flawed teaching kicks in. The Catholic church had to prove that the Apostolic Succession went from Jesus on, so they made sure to make it seem like the Catholic church (in its primitive form) existed, when in reality it didn't."

Ah - not quite true. In 380 the Catholic Church was adopted as the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire. In 382, the Council of Rome established many of the official mandates and positions of the church (when you claim the church was 'founded.')

But look at it this way - how can the Catholic Church have been adopted as a state religion if, according to your interpretation, it didn't even exist until two years later?

No, the 'real' Catholic church existed de facto for at least a couple of hundred years, if not more. In 382, it just happened to be the first time they hung the 'Open for Business' sign on the door.

"All of this is correct! The church did have some beliefs that one like me would hate. I REALLY THINK that the American church is JUST LIKE the first century church. On one end of the spectrum you have people that think the Bible means what it says, on the other you have the people that think tradition (or personal preference) is what is accurate. The first century church had a word for these folks, Gnostics. They were JUST LIKE our new age people today. Perverting the gospel to make it say all kinds of things."

You know what, you've won me over on this argument (sort of.) You're right that the American church is SO varied and has so many contradictory branches that it does resemble the Catholic church before the Council of Rome decided what was and wasn't 'right' according to their faith.

That's why the Unitarians believe in gay rights and the Evangelicals don't. They're all supposed to be practicing one faith - but do it so differently, they contradict and oppose each other.

What you haven't convinced me on - and I really don't think you can - is that your branch of literal Christianity is the 'right' one. It would be difficult enough to do that if we both agreed on the starting scripture of the Bible. However, there are so many different versions kicking about, it's a joke. Don't like one interpretation of the Bible? Pick up a later edition and have a look at that instead.

That being said - it's commendable of you that you look at, study and read these different editions of the Bible and are familiar with the differences and conflicts contained within. That takes a lot of the wind out of my sails arguing with you!

"The Bible today is largely influenced by the Catholic church. But open up your Catholic Bible and you'll see some differences. And the canon was made due to what was largely accepted as the New Testament over 300 years. Were their more letters? Yes. were some of them false letters? YES. Were some of them just as true as what we have today? YES. But the ones from reputable folks compliment the Bible, the Gnostic influenced ones don't."

Now this is the bit I really have issue with.

The council of Rome detirmined what was and wasn't canon - and your Bible today reflects that. However, this is WRONG. The 27 books of the Bible were plucked from over 150!

You're right, some of those might have been false, apocryphal or pseudepigraphical. In fact, some of the works that WERE included in the Bible were not authentic. The Gospel of John, for example, was written anonymously between 90 and 100 AD - not by John himself.

But many of these books - which you disregard - were totally legitimate and were excluded from the Canon because of political reasons. I gave you some examples yesterday.

One such example was the Book of Enoch, which was banned because it was too 'Jewish' and told a story of giants and angels and God's genocidal wrath which was deemed inappropriate for the new age Christian faith circa 382.

But the Book of Enoch WAS an entirely valid Biblical text. In fact, several books (including Jude) make reference to it.

So if Jude was written based on a canon including the Book of Enoch, it doesn't make any sense to include Jude but exclude a book from which much of the story had it's origins.

It's all political and the Council of Rome picked and chose which gospels and books they liked and which they didn't. However, historically, you HAVE to accept that some of the disregarded books of the Bible contained within them important and accurate scripture which never made it into the Bible we know today.

"Onto your argument about the KJV being the 'most legitimate translation'. This is absolutely absent of facts. Since the KJV was written we have found many more transcripts and outside sources quoting the Canoned books. New translations take those into account, the KJV does not. That would be like saying cancer research is better 40 years ago then today."

You know what, CK. You're absolutely right and I'm wrong. so much has been discovered (including the dead sea scrolls) to make our new perspective on the Bible starkly different to how it was in the 1600s when King James commissioned the KJ.

I think my arrogant English pride got the better of me that time!

But actually, the point I was trying to make about Matthew 5:22 is an excellent example of the problems with translating the Bible.

In the KJV it reads: "Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council."

The word 'Raca' was left in because in 1600, nobody knew how to translate it (proving you 100% right with your "I went through the door white" observation."

However, in 1934 Egyptian papyrus was discovered which indicated that 'raca' or 'racha' was an Aramaic or Semitic insult translated to 'sissy,' 'effeminate' or, by one scholar, 'faggot.'

So, in the original Koine greek and KJV, the direct translation was that Jesus was condemming homophobia.

Now that's NOT a very convincing argument (it's dependent on the translation of a single word, which is the same reason the only scriptural condemnation of homosexuality that stands up in is Paul - since Corinthians and Timothy et. al. likewise use the word 'homosexual' when the Koine Greek could have been translated a different way.)

However, it's VERY telling that more modern translations of the Bible either leave the word untranslated (and meaningless) or give it a fluffy translation like 'insulting name' which leaves out that whole, pesky, inconvenient possibility that Jesus was telling people not to hate on the gays.

So surely you can see what I'm taking about - the Bible might well have been inspired by the word of God - but in the interim 2000 years, a lot of VERY unGodly people have been massaging it to their own political ends.

A good example? King James I was a rapant bisexual (he'd sleep with anything) so it's 'convenient' that the bit in which Jesus seems to indicate that homosexuality is A-ok got stuck into Matthew 5:22.

ck said...

OK, more dialog.


"Education means squat when it comes to religion. As all teachings are done with some skewed glasses, and in your case... highly skewed. Kind of like what schools like to teach about American History."

What? Blink? **Sits down and shakes his head for a second.**

I fundementally disagree with this statement. I guess I can see where you're coming from - of course ALL teaching is biased in some degree. For example, I studied religion from a Anglo-Catholic perspective.

But 'education means squat?' No, that's utter rubbish. Education means everything. If you are not educated, your opinions are absolutely meaningless - especially regarding religion. And, in rebuttal, a lot of what you've written shows that you yourself ARE educated about religion.


A little clarification, an education without proper research into the skew is baseless.


"And THIS is where the flawed teaching kicks in. The Catholic church had to prove that the Apostolic Succession went from Jesus on, so they made sure to make it seem like the Catholic church (in its primitive form) existed, when in reality it didn't."

Ah - not quite true. In 380 the Catholic Church was adopted as the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire. In 382, the Council of Rome established many of the official mandates and positions of the church (when you claim the church was 'founded.')

But look at it this way - how can the Catholic Church have been adopted as a state religion if, according to your interpretation, it didn't even exist until two years later?

No, the 'real' Catholic church existed de facto for at least a couple of hundred years, if not more. In 382, it just happened to be the first time they hung the 'Open for Business' sign on the door.


You're splitting hairs. while the roots of the catholic church obviously run deeper then 400 AD (and this wasn't meant to be taken literally as 400AD, but a time period)... it got its real start then. Thats when it 'jumped the shark'.


What you haven't convinced me on - and I really don't think you can - is that your branch of literal Christianity is the 'right' one.


I'm not even 100% convinced I know it all. But I am clear on one thing, the main things... are the plain things. Those I'm comfortable going in front of Jesus believing (like homosexuality).


Regarding noncanonized books
This is one point I am less knowledgable about. But I feel comfortable saying the following...

You won't find vast disagreement between the canonized books, and the more reputable noncanonized books. You may find certain cultural differenes between the two (like women wearing long hair), but you won't find vast theological differences.

Regarding Matthew 5:22
I am finding nothing supporting your definition of Raca. What I am finding is this:

* Raca. An epithet of contempt; empty head, or spit out, that is, a heretic.

* rhaka rhak-ah': O empty one, i.e. thou worthless (as a term of utter vilification)

* One who is loose in life and manners, carefree, unresponsible.


Care to explain?

Roland Hulme said...

Loved the use of the term 'jumping the shark' there. Did you read my article about how I thought Obama had 'jumped the shark?'

All good stuff you've written. You're a tough nut to crack.

Regarding 'raca' - I didn't make it up. Wikipedia, amongst others, has this to say:

Matthew 5:22: "raca"

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is reported as saying:

“ but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. ”

(Matthew 5:22; KJV).

This verse involves Jesus criticizing people for using words of contempt, some which have been interpreted as referring to homosexuals. The untranslated word "Raca" is an Aramaic term of contempt, but its precise meaning is debatable. The word "raca" and similar words are common in many Semitic languages and some writers allege that they mean weakness or effeminacy, and are frequently used as terms of abuse for homosexuals (Robinson 2004; Halsall). Furthermore, it is alleged that the word translated as "fool" (μωρός, from which we derive the English moron) has a number of other meanings, including "sexual aggressor" and "homosexual aggressor". Robinson (2004) therefore concludes that "One could argue that Jesus was condemning homophobia in this passage."

In the article "WWJD: Jesus on Anti-gay, Anti-pedophile, Anti-incest Slurs", the word is said to be "racha", and evidence is presented that the word doesn't mean "fool", but instead refers to effeminacy. Matthew 5:22 presents a hierarchy of punishment, where calling someone a "fool" is the third and most serious offense, while calling a brother racha is second. Joseph Wallfield, writing under the pen name Warren Johansson, argued in support of the 1922 analysis of philologist Friedrich Schulthess, who claimed racha should be equated with "rakh", which means "sissy". Wallfield argued that racha is synonymous with the Greek "malakos", which refers to the receptive partner and carried the connotations of effeminacy and passivity. The term is found in Paul's Epistles. Also, in 1934, an ancient Egyptian papyrus was published written in Greek in 257 B.C. that used the word "rachas" with a parallel text suggesting that the word meant "kinaidos" (faggot). Wallfield discovered that German slang, which makes use of Hebrew and Aramaic words, uses the word "rach" for meanings such as "cowardly", "timid", and "effeminate".

Wallfield concluded: "What the text in Matthew demonstrates is that he forbade acts of violence, physical and verbal, against those to whom homosexuality was imputed, in line with the general emphasis on self-restraint and meekness in his teachings."

However, many, following the interpretation of Gesenius contend that racha is related to the Aramaic word reyq, which means "empty" or "vain". Thus, racha would simply denote a "senseless, empty-headed man".

ck said...

Re: Jumped the shark.
Yes.

All good stuff you've written. You're a tough nut to crack.
Well as you know I know what I believe and I believe what I know.

Re: Raca
Well you didn't make it up, but you picked the version you wanted to make your case. So this is where the bigger picture of the Bible and not one scripture come into play.

The Bible overall, Old and New Testament, speaks against sexual perversion. So to think that Raca speaks for it would be in contradiction of the big picture.

Roland Hulme said...

He he. I'll let you in on something... The problem with the argument I used about the term 'raca' being 'proof that Jesus condemned homophobia' has a flaw.

In Corinthians, when homosexuality is condemned, Raca is the term they use to describe it.

So to argue that Jesus condoned homosexuality in Matthew is to suggest that he condemned it in Corinthians.

ck said...

Re: Raca

Baby keep you up last night so your not thinking clearly?

Raca is ONLY in Matthew 5:22.

1 Corinthians 6:9 uses malakos.

Roland Hulme said...

Indeed it does.

Erm... Deliberate mistake? Just to see if you were paying attention?

[Do you think he'll buy that one?]

Okay, I'll fess up. Last time I let my three-week old assist me in theological debate.

ck said...

You know we lost people about 10 comments ago...