Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Traditional Christian belief

I spent most of my college years in an evangelical-like Christian church.  They taught a form of Christianity that said there is only one church, one truth, and they were that truth.  For a while, I believed it based on their knowledge of the bible, but eventually, I realized something was not right with those beliefs.  If they were the only truth holder, then we were the minority and every other "false-Christian" was the majority.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but for one Christian group to claim they hold the real truth really made me question what "truth" means.  So I left that group to figure it out.  It's very interesting what you will experience in life.

The thing I want to write about today is the basis for Christian belief, the foundation for today's interpretation of the bible.  The argument the church I went to uses for believing in Jesus and the traditional interpretation of Christianity is as follows: Jesus is believable because Jesus' words are true and reasonable.  Either Jesus was a master liar, a psychopath, or the Son of God.  So let's take this argument and see if it is reasonable.

First of all, this is not an exercise in denying Jesus' existence.  This is only an exercise in determining if the "true and reasonable" argument works.

"So, if Jesus was a master liar, then the story cannot be true."  One problem with this argument is that there have been many liars in our history that men have followed.  The church's argument is that people wouldn't die for it.  Well, there's been many cases of people dying for their beliefs.  Jonestown, Waco, Heaven's Gate, etc.  They all died believing in what they believed and what their leader taught.  Some may argue the people in Waco did not die for their leader, but that is not the point.  They put their life on the line for their belief.  So the argument that Jesus couldn't be a liar for a reason to believe is not a good one.

"Jesus was not a psychopath, so we can believe in him."  The problem with this argument is that their basis for this conclusion is purely based on anecdote.  They use the gospels in the bible to determine this.  But before you can accept the gospel, you have to accept the bible as the truth.  I'll talk about this later.  The premise that Jesus was not a psychopath is also an assumption without complete knowledge or details.  I'm not suggesting Jesus was a liar or psychopath.  Just that the arguments being made is not a reasonable argument.  He could have been a psycho, but did not portray himself as such because of his psychosis.  You see many people kill themselves for lesser causes, why not for a greater cause?  Psychological problems is not easily seen, nor is it expressed by the individual, so there's no basis of fact for denying this possibility.

"Jesus is the Son of God.  Because Jesus couldn't possibly be a liar or a psychopath, therefore he must be the Son of God."  Is that a reasonable conclusion?  Most definitely not.  Jesus could just be a messenger.  Jesus could be a normal man.  Jesus could be the main character in a philosophical narrative.  Jesus could be anything.  But to jump to the conclusion based on what the gospels say makes little sense because you must first accept the claims to accept this conclusion.  Therefore, it isn't the claims that must be true and reasonable, but the source of the claim, the bible (as we do not have Jesus here to determine his authority).

As I mentioned, the belief in Jesus is really not the basis of belief, but the bible itself.  Is the bible true and reasonable?  It's interesting that the majority of Christians do not challenge the bible's authority.  The logic for acceptance without question is that the Bible is infallible because it is the "Word of God" (they interpret the term "Word" to mean the bible or Jesus, as the living bible) just as it claims it is, and therefore, God would not allow His words to be distorted.  How they came to this conclusion is mind boggling.  Most, if not all Christians (and other religions that rely on a text source) accept the bible's authority simply because the bible claims a specific authority within the writings (anything can claim authority, whether true or not)!  We know the bible has been touched by men's hands.  It has been in controversy many times, but people choose to believe it has not been distorted.  They believe that one or two meaningless words changed does not change the message.  But that is exactly why the content has to be suspect.  If you can change one or two words here or there, how many other times has just one or two words been changed over the centuries?  To ignore the power that the church had over men is to ignore men's ambitions.  How were men controlled?  By indoctrinating them with the idea that the church leaders are God's representatives and that the leaders can only be the keepers and interpreters of God's words.  It wasn't until the printing press came about that men had the chance to study the bible for themselves.  But if you look at the history of today's bible composition, you will see how easily it can be distorted and manipulated.  The only basis for fact is the believer's faith.  But that is not a basis of fact at all.

The conclusion is if the bible is not verifiable, then how can you accept its words directly as the true message of God?  Again, I'm not claiming the bible is false or that it does not contain truths.  Rather, I'm saying you cannot blindly accept what someone tells you, just because they use the bible.  The interpretation cannot be verified because not only are the events written long past (the time of these events are unknown), but the original message may not be intact, so it cannot be used as a source of absolute truth.  However, there is and always will be other sources of truth.  The bible does contain truths, but it is hidden and not seen on the surface.  No manipulation of words by men, no translation by language, will distort or hide the hidden message that is in the bible.  That's because the bible does contain God's word in a form that Jesus called parables.  But not just the parables, but even the old testament has the hidden message as well.

I believe the old testament is a large collection of parables written in story form.  It is the message that man is composed of body and spirit.  That the spirit has lost its way and forgotten who it is and where it came from.  A veil of ignorance has come down upon it and has become "trapped" as flesh (belief that he is only human).  The old testament is filled with stories of Israel's captivity and bondage.  The true Israelite, as Paul wrote, is what is "inside" of all humans, not just the Jews.  He was referring to each person's spirit.  The true Israelite is the metaphor for our spirit.  The spirit or soul, having identified itself as being flesh and not spirit, has become ignorant of itself.  Therefore, it has become captive in a barren land of death and destruction.  The body is the barren land and it dies.  But God sent help when the people cry out.  Moses, Jonah, Joseph, Joshua, David, etc.  All led their people out of bondage.  This is also the message of Jesus: salvation of the soul from "death", which is the body.  It is the leading of our soul from the body's captivity that is the true message of the bible.  And this message is consistent throughout the bible.  If you read the bible with this context, it'll make some of the confusing things written make sense.  There are too many examples to write down here, but it explains what "Satan" means (Satan is the flesh, the great deceiver being this physical body, that you are a physical creature), it explains what Job's temptation and Jesus' similar temptation means (deny the spirit, live by the flesh), it explains why salvation is for all, not only the Jews because it is the salvation of our souls from ignorance of itself, not from the sins of the flesh (which is misinterpreted as well.  Sins of the flesh means you identify yourself with the flesh and its animalistic instincts).

So what is true and reasonable?  It is not whether Jesus is the Son of God or not.  It is whether the bible as interpreted by traditional Christianity is true and reasonable.  From this, all other beliefs from the bible stems.  Figure out what the bible's message really is, then you'll know if your beliefs in Jesus and ultimately the message is true and reasonable.

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