I often have these troubling moments when I totally don’t believe in God anymore, and I wonder what it would be like to live without Him.
I was an atheist for most of my life, so these thoughts are comfortable and familiar, like the blue plaid super-hero cape I wore in third grade. I go down a spiral of binge-reading atheism blogs and I can’t stop myself. I start to wonder if God even does anything because there’s so much horror in the world, or if He’s just a construct of a hopeful mind looking for momentary relief. It can take days to pull back from this, and doubts never really fade; you just live with them.
I remember the words of that father with the demon-possessed son, who told Jesus, “I do believe, but help my unbelief!” And Jesus healed him. He didn’t shut them down. He didn’t say, “You better believe all the way first.” I get to thinking there must be more than all this, and that God did break into this fractured world somehow and began a healing at some point in history for all of eternity, an invitation to a new story, a reversal of entropy. I get to thinking we’re not just spinning alone out here, and that this is all going somewhere, and I have this tiny mustard-seed-sized faith that Jesus tells me can move mountains. I think even if this isn’t true, I so badly want it to be, and maybe that’s okay too. I do believe, and he doesn’t shame me for my unbelief. For that, I can believe Him — and for a moment, the mountains get shaken.
So, yes, it’s hard to be gay and Catholic — it’s hard to be anything and Catholic — because I don’t always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I’ll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.
This is my newest book, on persevering through trials, called Mad About God.
When life hurts, we often turn the pain into a teachable moment: but not every pain has a bow-tie. Sometimes life just hurts, and we need the space to grieve. In this
journey, we discover the nuances of loss and grief. We encounter real stories of suffering from real people, with no spiritualizing and no easy answers. In
dismantling what doesn’t work – we might find what does.
If you or your friend are in the middle of a mess: this book is meant for ground zero. I also go over handling depression, faith-shattering doubt, “sexy cancer,” second world problems, misquoting verses
for inspirational Instagrams, the hijacking of Jeremiah 29:11, and the
theology of True Detective, Louis C.K., and The Shawshank Redemption.
Here’s a free audio preview of the book. It’s on sale in paperback for only 8.99 and ebook for only 3.99. Be blessed and love y’all! — J.S.
Why we can eat shellfish but same-sex marriage is still wrong
Traditionally, the Old Law is divided into three parts: the ceremonial law, the disciplinary law, and the moral law.
The ceremonial law encompassed all of the ceremonies and sacrifices: what kinds of animals to sacrifice, what parts to burn, what parts belonged to the priest, how often to sacrifice, etc. The most important part of the ceremonial law was the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), described as the Sabbath of Sabbaths. On this day, the high priest would enter the holiest part of the temple and offer animals in atonement for the sins of Israel (see Leviticus 16) The ceremonial law was superseded by Jesus, who is High Priest, Sacrifice, and Altar of the New Covenant. Now, instead of sacrificing animals, which could not take away our sins, Catholic priests, acting in persona Christi, offer the same sacrifice of Calvary to the Father (see the letter to the Hebrews, especially chapter 9).
The disciplinary law encompassed the dietary restrictions, what kind of clothes to wear, and other related things. These things (including the oft-quoted examples of shellfish, mixed fabrics, and shaving) were specific to the Jews, and never applied to the rest of the world. One part of the disciplinary law that was more important was the penalties for breaking other laws; some commonly quoted examples are the death penalty for disobedient children and a simple fine for rapists. Although the moral laws they enforced (obey your parents, don’t rape) are still valid, these particular penalties were intended only for the Jews. The disciplinary laws were abrogated by Jesus (see Mark 7:1-23, especially verse 19), and the early church declared that they didn’t apply to Gentiles (Acts 15).
Unlike the ceremonial and disciplinary laws, the moral law is eternal, and applies for all time to all peoples. It is codified above all in the Ten Commandments, and in such related rules as the Shema or the commandment not to oppress widows and orphans, who were usually the poorest and most oppressed classes. Rather than abrogating these laws, Jesus took these commandments even further when he declared that anyone who was angry with someone else was guilty of transgressing the whole Law.
How do we know that the idea of marriage as one man and one woman is part of the moral law, and not the disciplinary law?
We know what marriage is supposed to be not just because of scripture, but also because of reason. Shortly after talking about the unnaturalness of same-sex sexual relations, Paul tells us that the Law is written in our hearts. The Church calls this the Natural Law, and insists that we can know this Law through reason. This Law tells us that marriage is for the love and mutual betterment of the spouses, but also for the procreation and education of children. Since a same-sex union could never result in a child, it does not qualify as a marriage; whereas an opposite-sex union has that possibility, even if one or both partners is infertile, and so is a true marriage.
So, no, we’re not hypocrites, and we don’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow. Rather, we follow our own logical, millenia-old theology
If you do not recognize God as the ultimate authority for moral uprightness, you get your morals from either one or both of these sources:
What’s so wrong with that? Well, both these sources are highly subjective and apt to change on whatever other variable whims are presently affecting them.
When discussing morals, one of my favorite examples is The Hunger Games. Complain, if you will, about teenage love triangles, but, on a political level, that book is staggeringly relevant. The book centers around the killing of children. And you say, “of course that’s wrong! It’s horrible!” But why? And who says so? If morals are determined by an ever changing society and personal standards, who is to say that teenagers forced against their will to fight to the death is wrong? Because half the people in those movies thought these killings were, not only acceptable and beneficial, but necessary. In terms of government, it was legal; the media romanticized it. By personal and social standards, it was a completely moral practice.
You see, this “child sacrifice” isn’t such a far fetched notion. There were plenty of cultures who thought child sacrifice was an acceptable practice. They murdered them in the name of the greater good. (Do note that they served them up to FALSE gods, which means the gods were the invention of immoral humans and, consequently, they are, as the humans that created them, subjective and prone to change their moral outlook). So was killing children acceptable back then because the societies determined such?
Let’s take a look at present day. Thousands of children are killed DAILY in the name of moral correctness. If you don’t want your child or think you’re ready for one, you can stop its beating heart and society calls that morally acceptable. Say child sacrifice is in the past, say The Hunger Games will never actually happen, but look around you. We have a more heinous massacre even than that of the holocaust, focused solely on the children. Killing unborn children is not only encouraged, it is applauded - glorified. Sacrificing your child so that you can have the life you want. And, much like The Hunger Games, the government deems it legal, the media romanticizes it, and by personal and social standards killing children is a completely moral practice.
Let’s take a step back to refocus. From The Hunger Games, to child sacrifices of the past, to present day, we see one thing - morals based on humans and society change - all the way to the extreme that killing children is celebrated. Morals cannot come from humans because we are IMMORAL creatures by nature. It is vital that they come from the one person who is completely holy and does not change through the ages - that is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because He is sinless and without blame, perfectly just, it is to Him that our standard of morality must be held.
Dear Pastor Joon, As a young women and follower of Christ, I find it difficult to understand 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I was hoping to get your input on what is being expressed in these scriptures. Thank you and God bless!
Before we get into the verses, I want to graciously offer these considerations. Please feel free to skip around.
1) We may not see eye-to-eye on our interpretations, but disagreement doesn’t have to mean disunity. We can disagree and still be friends. What’s important for a Christian is that we love Jesus, know that he loves us, and that we love one another.
2) Apostle Paul is occasionally called an outdated misogynist for his views on women, but academically and historically, I believe the exact opposite: Paul had such a high regard for women that I’m downright certain it rushed his execution. He declared views that were countercultural to both the Hebrews and the Romans of his day, and are still countercultural. Just one example: Paul wholeheartedly advocated for singleness as a legitimate life-choice in a time when single women were considered uneconomical and sinful.
3) The English translation of Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek is limited in that it’s impossible to have an exact translation of tone, intonation, colloquialisms, and context. Our English Bibles will always sound a little too abrupt. I’ll put it this way: My Asian parents learned English as a second language, and they sometimes sound more “rude” or “aggressive” because they don’t know the proper way to frame words with disclaimers and courtesy. Instead of saying, “Are you busy tomorrow? I’d like to invite you to my place,” they might say, “You come over okay.” They only know the short way of phrasing their intentions, so it comes off as tone-deaf. My parents might say things like, “You people” or “What’s wrong with you” without understanding this can be rude in our modern Anglo-American vernacular. That’s not to excuse when my parents are rude, but to preempt you: our chronological slice of culture tends to filter the Bible as offensive with phrases that never meant to offend. Which brings us to the next point.
4) Words like submit, quiet, and head of the household have such ominous tones today because of heavy verbal baggage and our quick-to-fight culture. We need to release what we think we know about these words in Scripture. Perhaps the irony here is that in labeling these words as “oppressive” or “archaic,” it’s inadvertently given ammo to chauvinists and oppressors when the Bible is not using these terms with our current meanings. Reading the Bible requires a bit of time-travel and historical empathy before we react too quickly.
5) The Bible is going to say some hard things. I can’t water down the tough stuff. The second we pick and choose what we want from Scripture, we’re no longer dealing with a real God, but an idol of our own making. A Bible that never pressed my buttons wouldn’t be a real God at all, but a god in my image. If at any time we push back against the Bible: it’s worth exploring why that happens. Simply, the Bible is always going to challenge some part of our worldview in every culture in every time period, either because it’s wrong or I’m wrong.
As a Christian, I take the view that I’m wrong, though of course, I still wrestle with those difficult parts of the Bible. So it’s worth our time to ask: Why do certain passages of Scripture hit such a raw nerve in my modern sensibilities? What is it offending? Why?
Here are some brief explanations of each of the “problematic passages” about women. I offer these as considerations for you to discern, pick apart, and finally conclude in your own process of conviction. I may very well be wrong in my understanding here and I completely welcome dialogue on this. I’m learning as we all are, and I want to make sure I’m being biblically sound and faithful to my faith.
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
V.3 — But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Please notice right away that there’s no “rank of superiority” here. It says “the head of Christ is God,” which doesn’t mean that Jesus is below the Father. We know from other passages like Genesis 1 that each part of the Trinity has submitted to one another since eternity past.
So what could this mean? As best as I can see it, this is about representation within relationships. The man and woman, if you look in your footnotes in Scripture, is talking about husband and wife. Jesus “represents” God, in the same way that the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the husband. The husband has the additional task of exemplifying Christ as well as seeing that his wife represents their marriage satisfactorily. The wife, of course, should exemplify Christ, but if anything is wrong in her marriage, then the magnifying glass is on the husband.
V.4-6 — Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
In the first century, women with shaved heads were often prostitutes. The church welcomed them. Apostle Paul was most likely attempting to protect the women in this church from judgment and rumors. Please keep in mind that the Corinthian church was already filled with incest, demon worship, abuse of spiritual gifts, and split loyalties. It’s also our sinful tendency to jump to conclusions as a reflex, no matter how hard we try to suppress it. Paul knows this. He in no way seems to be “blaming the victim,” but is trying to restore at least a small part of the church with a semblance of order. He’s trying not to stir the pot any more than it is.
If every woman in church had their head covered, that would be a quick remedy to an underlying problem of judging. It’s also a show of solidarity, like how some friends might shave their heads for their friend in chemotherapy.
V.7-12 — A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
Paul is presupposing a question. Some men might have asked, “If women are covering their heads to support each other and get rid of judgment, why don’t the men do it, too?” It seems some of the men even wanted to grow their hair long as some of the women. Paul answers that this is unnecessary. He calls back to his earlier statement as his logical reasoning: A husband represents Christ and wives represent their husband. In other words, a man doesn’t need to “save” a woman, and a wife’s happiness is seen by her husband’s leadership (or “glory”) in Christ, not by her husband’s showmanship.
V.8-12 — For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
Paul was stating the “negative” in the previous verses, by saying women should cover their heads in this church because of the current judgment problem. But here he offers a corrective on how things ought to be, by saying that men and women cannot have full lives without each other in community. All this talk about head covers is really symbolism for a deeper issue. Rather than the superficial idea of hats and hair to help each other, there ultimately has to be interdependency.
Please don’t get too hung up on the language here, where it says, “neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” Paul is trying to throw a little peace offering to the guys by referencing the Creation in Genesis 2, since Paul has been taking it so hard on the men, and then he tips the balance back by saying, “a woman ought to have authority over her own head … so also man is born of woman.” Then Paul caps it off by saying, “But everything comes from God.”
V.13-16 — Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
I think Paul is summarizing here to make sure he isn’t misunderstood: that women don’t need to cover their head in church as much as men don’t need to show it off. It was never about hats and hair. To further this point, Paul states a theological symbolism for men having their heads humbled and women being radiant and expressive, which is “the very nature of things,” or as it’s meant to be. Every other church, Paul says, isn’t really arguing over this issue because their inner-posture is so much more important than their outer-appearance.
1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
A seminary professor once told me, “Without context, there is no content.”
If we back up earlier in this passage, 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul calls for all believers to “live peaceful and quiet lives.” This entire passage is built on a general doctrine for all Christians. Then Paul zeroes in on the men. In verse 8, he tells “men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”
This also presupposes an existing problem with Timothy’s church: that men were not praying, possibly even fist-fighting, and holding grudges and bickering. Paul absolutely has to rebuke this in the men.
Next, Paul zeroes in on the women in 1 Timothy 2:11. Again, please consider that the language here, quietness and full submission, don’t mean what we think today. And even if it does, Paul calls for both men and women to have the same quietness and submission, both here and in Ephesians 5:21.
Even more, the women in Timothy’s church and the Corinthian church had a pre-existing problem where they were yelling during the church service. They also had an issue of dressing overly rich and gaudy (1 Timothy 2:9). It’s the only reason Paul would even bring this up; many of his letters contain responses to specific situations which need to be pieced together in hindsight. Paul is alarmed by the lack of reverence for the service, so he sets up a “No Talking” rule, which is exactly what we do for weddings, speeches, and a kid’s first play.
Paul suggests to the Corinthian church that any married woman wait until the service was over to talk with her husband about any grievances, because this is what a team does. Spouses confide in each other calmly rather than yelling in service. It’s at the very least the polite thing to do.
Now I have to ask here: Is it okay for women to get rebuked, too? Is it okay for women to be confronted on their stuff? If that bothers us, then why?
Also: Almost all the verses in the Bible are aimed at men and their responsibilities, and a tiny fraction of verses is aimed at women and children. Some might say this is “ignoring women,” but I actually see this as men being given the extra weight of morality. God has deemed fit that men need more guidance, and I can only dare to say why.
So we can’t have it both ways. We can’t say, “It’s unfair that men get more rules in the Bible” and “It’s unfair that women get rebuked in the Bible.”
Lastly: If anyone wants to use 1 Timothy 2:11 as proof that women can’t preach or teach, I have to point to the deaconess Phoebe and the married couple Priscilla and Aquila, all who were practitioners of Scripture (and I’m sure I’m missing more). And a fun fact: the Bible often operates on primacy, meaning that if a name is mentioned first, then they’re important, just as when a name is mentioned last, they’re ranked a little less (just like Judas is always listed last in every list of the disciples). Priscilla and Aquila are always spoken of with the wife’s name first. Priscilla was either a pastor, a leader, or a boss, but whatever she was, she wasn’t in “full submission” the way we see those words today.
This single passage is one of the most abused in all of Scripture, which appears to say, “Women must submit to men” — but this one’s also the easiest to explain.
Verse 21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” So men already have a responsibility to submit, too. Again, submit is not a bad word as we see it now, but implies a lending of trust.
Verse 22 never says, “Women submit to men,” but “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” This is never, ever a permission slip to stay under abuse or to let the husband do what he wants. This is a verse about trusting the husband’s leadership, just as each of us trust Christ to be a good leader. The second a husband isn’t a good leader, he is no longer like Christ, and this verse encourages the wife to call foul.
Verse 23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church …” Let’s get this right. The husband is called both to submit to his wife and to be the responsible head of the marriage. That’s a tall order.
Verse 25 is the killer. It says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …” The Greek work here “gave himself up” is paradidomi, which means to hand yourself over or to go under the power of something else. It’s just as Jesus handed himself over to the cross. This means that husbands are called both to submit and to die. Husbands are literally commanded to love their wives to death, just as Jesus died for us.
I have to ask here: Men, why would you ever use these verses to gain power? Do we realize how much this is asking of us? Do we know how much it takes to be a responsible head of the house? Are we really ready to die to marriage? And if you say, “My wife is the head of the house so I’m fine” — doesn’t that say more about you than your wife? What woman actively says, “I don’t want a responsible man” …? Where are the Christian men who take this passage seriously? I ask that of myself, too.
And this passage in Ephesians isn’t ultimately about earthly marriage, anyway. Marriage is used as a symbolic metaphor for Jesus’s relationship with us. That’s why Paul says in verse 32, “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
All these passages aren’t necessarily talking about gender or marriage or head coverings. Paul is using these symbols to relate back to the truth of the Gospel: that there must be a necessary trust, faith, obedience, surrender, sacrifice, submission, and humility between all of us. That’s real connection. That’s God’s love for us, and our love for each other. Each verse here is trying to dig at the root of our pride, to challenge our death-grip on control and withholding. The way to know how we get these verses is to see how much they make us angry.
Please allow me the grace to press in with love and truth a little bit. If these verses make you immediately jump to outrage over a social issue, then you might be suffering from “chronological snobbery” in which the lens of a time period has projected unintentional meanings. If these verses make you inordinately mad, it’s possible you have a contrary, conflict-seeking spirit lurking much worse than you think. If they make us pause to consider how much our discussions are conflated with bitterness and division, then we might be on to something.
One thing I’m passionate about is seeking understanding, wisdom, learning, and being open minded. Among those traits, every atheist I’ve talked to does not carry any of those in regards to believing in God, or any sort of intelligent creator. I’m going to start posting some apologetic conversations I have in regards to God, the Bible, and Jesus.
This one took place a few days ago on Gizmodo, with an article titled “A Brief Reminder That Earth Is the Best Planet.”
Me: A great reminder about how complex it is. Science says there’s over 150
parameters that need to be met for humans to live and survive on Earth.
Quite funny for people to logically believe in evolution when you line
all the scientific facts up.
Atheist: And even more amazing (read: mind-numbingly moronic) to believe that
some omnipotent being went thru the effort to create such an incredibly
nice place for such a totally insignificant animal.
(Every atheist I’ve talked to, always comes out name-calling, bashing, and mocking.)
Me: Did my statement make you mad? It’ll make sense if you study the Bible! Ever studied it?
Atheist: No, not angry, just sad (I’ve long ago stopped
being surprised by the stupidity of my fellow humans… though still
amazed by the depth & breath of it tho).Yes, I’ve tried to read it a couple times… just couldn’t get past
the contradictions & inconsistencies. Which one should expect when
several different “editors” put together a compilation of several
different “authors” take on the events that happened several hundred
years prior, editing & modifying the “story” to fit their then
current attitudes about what’s supposed to have happened all in order to
keep their grasp on power. Tho, all-in-all, primitive, tribal,
superstitious bullshit & a vile book full of repugnant
thoughts/ideas/beliefs.Bless your little heart.
Me: Ah, the typical cookie cutter atheist response. Yes, the book was
written several thousand years ago. Which inconsistencies are you
referring to? Obviously, you have to study it in context. If people two
thousand years later from now read where a kid said “it was lit!” -
they’d have to read that in context to understand he is referring to
something “cool.” Writers in that time period don’t write like we do
today. It’s all about context. Through context you understand the
principals and the message they are trying to convey. The Bible lines up
with historic events, is that inconsistent? Not sure what is repugnant
and vile about it. If you took the word “God” out - atheists would be
the first endorsing it as a self-help book. I’ve never understood what
turns atheists off from the Bible. It promotes love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and
self-control. I think you’d agree with me that all of those are good
traits in a human, no? Do you believe Christopher Columbus sailed to
America? Why? You didn’t see who wrote that, edited that, printed that,
Atheist: Um… NO.1) God created the animals & then Adam v created Adam, then
created the animals in front of Adam so he could name them… & just
how many animals did Noah take on the Arc 2? or 6(-I believe it was…
Been a while since I read it.)?2) talk about cookie cutter… Context.. pft3) Um… remove god & it becomes a self-help book? NO. I can’t handle it I prey to god to do it for me. ? Is not
self-help… Unless by self-help you mean justifying/excusing/condoning
rape, murder, infanticide, mutilation, slavery, war & a whole host
of other crap people do to one another because their god wanted/told them too.4) Jesus may have promoted those things … sadly most christians do
not. & those who do, never seem to get around to condemning those
who don’t. (“So unlike Christ your christians are” -Ghandi, was it?)Great example of why one should never debate with christies… You’ll never convince them they’re wrong, & they’ll never convince you that you aren’t right.
Me: 1) What are you trying to say? 2 of every kind. 2) Not sure what you are referring to. 3) Do you know the difference between the Old Testament and New
Testament? I’m assuming not by your response. The New Testament is God’s
law for today. Do you understand the reason for the crucifixion and the
Gospel? Do you think the 10 Commandments are bad virtues? 4) So, you can take the actions of a few people who call themselves
“Christians” - and justify the mass by said actions? So when I’ve had 10
atheists call me names and insult me, its logical to say “All atheists
are mean”? Those Christians that are un-Christlike, would you call them
christian? If someone holds up a dictionary and kills someone, even when
the dictionary says “Do not murder” - is it the dictionaries fault? Of
course there are going to be people trying to push their own agenda
under a religion. That happens with any and every religion. The Bible
does not say “Believe in God, and read your Bible, and you will be
perfect.” Have you studied any other religions, ever?
Atheist: The dictionary doesn’t pretend to make moral commands as to how one should, or rather, MUST live one’s life.& you mistake me… I’m not an atheist.. I’m more of an
apatheist… I do not care if (or that) your god exist. he exhibits all
the worst traits of humans (given that we made him in our image, not
surprising) & as such, would be unworthy of being worshipped in any
Me: If you don’t care if or that a God exists, why would you spend all this
time debating me about it? What is one bad trait that Jesus had? And
where did our sense of right/wrong and good/bad come from?
Atheist has not replied back - it’s been 3 days since my last reply.
How is God three in one? Why does the Christian faith need a Trinitarian God? Does any analogy really work? An explanation of this unexplainable doctrine in less than three minutes. And a unique way to see the Trinity. I got really excited about this one.
Depending on what source you look at, somewhere between 53-57% of professing Christians believe that salvation can come through other religions. That is, OVER HALF of everyone who claims to be a Christian believes there are multiple ways to heaven.
THAT IS SHOCKING.
What does the Bible say about that? Well, let us see…
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.’”
1 John 5:12
“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”
There is One God and one way to salvation, and that is is through faith in Jesus Christ. Placing your complete trust in His sacrifice on the cross is the only way you can be saved from your sins. Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, Jehovah’s Witness, Hindu, Buddhist, New Age, any other religion you can possibly think of does not lead to Heaven, they only lead to Hell. God is evident in His Word that the ONLY way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.
In a closed group on Facebook, I decided to give an undue benefit of doubt to Christians I’ve neither met or spoken to before. I always give people a clean slate. I don’t associate a Christian I just met with Christians I’ve previously spoken to. That would be unfair to them and uncharitable. I am distrustful of Christians as a whole, given what I’ve experienced. I do, however, set that aside with the hopes that this new Christian will prove him/herself to be different from the ones I’ve spoken to. I mostly find myself disappointed because they turn to insults, blatant lies, fallacies, and outright moral depravity. I’ll summarize this lengthy discussion. Though I’m not done supporting my points and though I’m already discouraged by the responses, I’m going to finish the series. What follows is my opening statement:
It is often stated that there cannot be any proof or evidence either for a god’s existence or lack thereof. If this is the case, then what exactly is the point of pages like this or siding with one side or the other? The logical conclusion would be agnosticism.
I hold that there can be evidence both for and against a god’s existence. Some deities are so utterly fantastical, so surrounded by clear mythology, that no one, theist or not, considers them. There are, however, deities that warrant a closer look and it isn’t due to popularity, but rather, due to the arguments people have made. The god of Islam, Allah; the god of Judeo-Christianity Yahweh and also the divinity of Christ; concepts of god not tied to religions like the gods of deism and Spinoza; the supreme god of Hinduism, either Siva or Vishnu and also Vishnu’s primary avatara Krishna; the supreme god of pantheistic Hinduism, the Brahma. These deserve consideration and a few have been given ample consideration. We may also consider a god more generally, i.e., does this universe seem like the kind of universe that would feature a deity?
Given that there are a lot of Christians here, the following are the claims Christianity makes:
1. God is the creator
a) God created the universe b) God created the Earth and solar system c) God created life
a) God is perfectly good b) God is perfectly just c) God is perfectly loving
We can simply go to the Bible and see whether the god of its pages aligns with these claims.
3. (Related to (2)) Morality hinges on the god of Christianity Is it possible to offer a completely irreligious system that doesn’t trace back to Christianity? I will eventually argue that you can offer such a system.
4. The Jesus of the Gospels was a historical person
This is a falsifiable/verifiable claim.
5. The Gospels are historically reliable
This claim is also falsifiable/verifiable. There can be evidence for or against these claims. Which side wins out?
Note that a knowledge of cosmology, science more generally, philosophy, history, textual criticism, theology, anthropology, and archaeology are required to honestly answer all of these questions. Over the next couple of days, I will offer the evidence against these claims. If the evidence against these claims proves convincing, then an honest person should be convinced that Christianity is false.
On another note, I’ve not seen any evidence for any of these claims. I’ve seen apologetics, dogmatic assertions, and pseudosciences like creationism and intelligent design–the latter two also having plenty of evidence *against* them. Christianity makes many more claims, but the above claims are the primary ones–indeed the claims necessary to prove Christianity true.
To my first point, I simply linked them to my Argument From Cosmology. Aside from the interest expressed and respect given by one Christian, no one responded to it. That’s not surprising because it’s the strongest argument I offer. It’s also the most esoteric. I was serious about the note above. I stated that I opposed (1) as generally as possible. I didn’t focus on whether god created the Earth or the solar system or life. I focused on whether he could have created the universe in the first place. I noted that the sub-points can be addressed individually, but that too will require a knowledge of science, and frankly, I wasn’t at all impressed by what I saw. It would be quite the waste of time to address those points individually.
To the second point, I offered the following. This is where the frustration really started to set in because I was met with apologists for rape, genocide, infanticide, and clear violations of human rights.
Continuing yesterday’s discussion, I want to address god’s perfection. Is he perfectly good, just, and loving? The answer is a resounding no and we can indict god given what the Bible says, and given a more philosophical treatment of the concept of Hell, there’s no way to absolve god. The following verses have god commanding and partaking in atrocious acts–acts involving even infants and children. Now, on my view, a god who would condemn or punish children due to the “sins” of their parents or relatives is unjust. Ask yourself, should I be sentenced to death or life in prison because the authorities learned that my great grandfather was a serial murderer? Of course not. Yet there are instances in the Bible in where god cleanses entire tribes due to what amounts to nothing more than guilt by relation.
The following verses are quite damning. It would seem that god condoned rape, genocide, and the murder of infants and children. “But that was during the period of the law.” Sure, but when were these things ever okay? This is neither good nor just nor loving.
As for Hell, the matter is quite simple to handle. Is eternal damnation of any sort a just punishment for temporal actions? In other words, is it just to punish someone eternally based on the fact that they committed actions within time? Put another way, say you murder someone, on Christianity, you have only destroyed their body; also, you do not have the right to take their life because it is god who gives and takes life. However, given that you haven’t destroyed them entirely because you haven’t destroyed their soul, how is it just to punish a murderer for all of eternity?
On top of this, it isn’t even about “sin” anymore. It’s about rejection of Christ. If you reject Christ before men, you will be denied before the father and the angels and cast out for all of eternity. Given that there are many religions and just as many, if not more, arguments against Christianity, and given the very human penchant for fallibility, why should anyone be punished for making the mistake of thinking Christianity is false? In fact, it would seem that god has rigged the game because the evidence strongly suggests that Christianity is false. To just accept what appears astoundingly false is simply disingenuous; it’s akin to Pascal’s Wager: just wager on belief rather than doubt because you’ll be better off. On my view, if god existed, he would see right through someone like that. In any case, the concept of Hell makes god unjust and unloving. Furthermore, we can treat Hell anthropologically and historically and realize that the concept is simply not true; there’s no such place and Christians shouldn’t wish that there was. To think anyone deserves that sort of punishment is to prove that you yourself lack empathy.
Lastly, people are a product of their genetics, neurobiology, and environment. In other words, who we are is heavily determined. Perhaps it isn’t fully determined (that’s another discussion entirely; one about compatibilism and determinism), but it’s determined enough. Murderers, rapists, liars, and thieves aren’t born; they are made. They are made by abuse, by bullying, by neglect, by brain impairment and damage, by economic circumstances, etc. No one *freely chooses* to be a criminal or a law abiding citizen. Your circumstances have more of a say than you realize.
With my points briefly surveyed, we can see that god isn’t good, just, or loving. In fact, he’s proven to be quite the opposite. If you feel those verses aren’t literal or historical, then ask yourself, why did they make the cut? Is this inspired? Did god intend to write this? Why is it there to begin with? Also, there’s no allegorical interpretation to be had. There’s nothing at all figurative about those verses. If anything, perhaps they’re fictional and utterly so. It has been argued that the Israelites had no such conquests and that these stories were made up as ways to create solidarity among themselves, a way of increasing morale. But then, you can clearly see that they believed in a war god that’s no different from other war gods in mythology. Yahweh is no different from Rama in the Ramayana, leading a people in battle. Yet this is the same god Jesus referred to as father. So if his father is a myth, you have to question Jesus’ supposed divinity. To conclude that these stories are fictional leads to unwanted consequences for Christians. So there are these interpretations: historical, which has its issues; fictional, which leads to consequences; the allegorical is unavailable. What you’re left with are problematic stories that demonstrate god’s imperfection. We can also point to attributes as well, e.g., the notion that god gets angry, but we need not consider that here.
Note that I’m well aware of philosophical views of the Christian god. They are, however, incongruous with the god of the Bible. I have, in the past, argued that apologists appear to worship two different gods: Yahweh in the Bible and a philosophical concept that doesn’t fully resemble the god of the Bible. Sure, there are some points in common: eternal and therefore timeless; omnipotent; omniscient. The philosophical concepts erase his personality, so to speak. Descartes went as far as making god nearly impersonal; his deism implied that god started the universe and then fell into a slumber on his throne. To the philosophers, the notion of god’s anger or wrath simply doesn’t feature.
The Christians on the forum mostly bypassed my arguments against the concept of Hell and of course, none of them asked me to elaborate on my historical and anthropological treatment of Hell. They focused in on the verses. In response to god’s ethnic cleansing of the Midianites, one guy stated that they had a cultural identity. This led them to see the Israelites as enemies. Somehow, even the infants harbored these attitudes and because of this, they deserved to be murdered due to mere guilt by relation to their “sinful” parents. As for the virgins being stripped from their families and having to endure watching their people murdered, what justified this was that they were married to Israelite men. They weren’t sex slaves, but they became wives. Speaking of wives, when speaking specifically about Deuteronomy 22:28-29, the same guy argued that a woman marrying her rapist was justified by the fact that her father was “set up for life.” Apparently 50 shekels of silver was a fortune. He blatantly ignored that the dowry was paid to her father and not to her. He blatantly ignored the patriarchal implications and misogyny underlying the passage. So in one breath, he proved to be an apologist for genocide, infanticide, and rape.
As for the rest, one guy screamed “out of context.” I, of course, put verses in their context and showed that given context, god couldn’t be absolved. If these verses are speaking of anything historical, he isn’t good, just, or loving. Another guy literally argued that it’s enough that god merely commanded these things and didn’t do it himself. He attempted to absolve his god by pointing out that god simply ordered the hit; he didn’t take these people out himself. Not only is god not good, just, or loving, Christians are morally depraved. Unless, of course, they’re the type of Christian to regard these stories as myth. That’s the only other choice, since allegorical interpretations aren’t available to them with passages like these. Yet if they’re myths, they have to answer the question: why in the world did these stories end up in “god’s word”? What purpose do they serve? What is that supposed to teach Christians? Didn’t god, in his omniscience and sovereignty, realize that this would lead many astray? If he wants all men to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4, why allow for yet another circumstance that will lead people astray? This is the monster Jesus referred to as “father.” When regarding passages as myth, e.g., Genesis 3, the Christian has to be mindful of clear consequences.
Conversely, if Genesis 3 is a myth, there are clear exegetical issues. I’ll briefly expound.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Some portions of this passage are bolded to outline the doctrine of original sin. The doctrine can be best understood by the words “sin entered the world through one man.“ However, due to the myths of other cultures, e.g., Enuma Elish and due–in greater part–to the theory of evolution, it is fairly simple to conclude that the original sinner, Adam, did not exist. It is important to note that there are Christians who no longer accept the Creation myth in Genesis, but still accept the supposed redemptive power of the sacrifice of Christ. Well, how can one not accept the original sinner, but accept the redeemer? It’s illogical and thus, Christians who have adjusted their beliefs in such a manner are automatically discredited by the question alone. On the other hand, there are Christians who still believe the Creation myth to be true. However, how can they reject the parallels this myth has with that of other cultures? Moreover, how can they reject the theory of evolution–a theory that has substantial evidences in many respective fields of science?
There are only two conclusions: 1) If there was no original sinner, as the evidence strongly suggests, Jesus Christ died for nothing because there was no original sin due to the absence of an original sinner. 2) Jesus Christ did not exist because the original sinner did not exist. If there is no original sine, the first Adam, then there is no need for a redeemer–"the last Adam” as 1 Corinthians 15:45 would posit. Ultimately, both conclusions destroy Christianity at its core. If Christ existed, he died for nothing and the message of salvation is reduced to an abstraction. If he didn’t exist, then the entire basis of Christianity is ripped from its roots. This is indeed the final nail in the cross.
I made this argument five years ago, so I can no doubt add to this. What’s curious is that Paul assumed the historicity of these passages, which is best exemplified in where he states, “from the time of Adam to the time of Moses.” Later Christians who assume they’re myths and ignore Paul’s assumption have to answer for that. Also, this is what I call a logical handcuff. If the creation myth is historical, there are consequences; if it’s myth, there are consequences, exegetical and doctrinal consequences to be more specific. Some Christians would deny original sin in attempts to escape this issue, but saying something like “sin entered the world at some point” doesn’t suffice. It’s a copout and pointing to supposed Orthodox tradition and laying into Protestants doesn’t interest me. Paul clearly makes a connection; Paul makes the doctrine explicit. If it’s not made explicit, you owe us an alternative exegesis of the passage, and from what I’ve seen, there’s none to be had.
As for the discussion, I addressed point (3) and again, there were no responses. A knowledge of philosophy would be necessary and of course, people who assume that morality is based on god and/or Christianity have no handle on ethics. People who are convinced by the Moral Argument are victims of the same sophism that plagues modern day evidentialist apologetics, e.g., William Lane Craig. So, to their minds, words like social contractualism and procedural realism are simply words that I say to sound smarter. They would much rather accuse me of being a normative relativist. Straw mans are so much easier to address. I’ll be addressing points (4) and (5) as well, but even if they’re not convinced by my arguments against a historical Gospel Jesus and the historical reliability of the Gospels, the logical handcuff above should suffice. I’m perpetually disappointed by Christians who would rather lose their teeth biting at the cuffs than admit that they’ve been indicted. To my mind, these arguments are clear and irrefutable. Turning to obscurantist tactics by speaking of god as abstractly as possible, ala David Bentley Hart, or making it about an epistemic system, e.g., presuppositionalism, misses the mark as well. My arguments cut in every direction and asking me to ground my entire epistemology or refute yours just shows that you’re dodging relevant challenges and questions, and generally speaking, people who do that are considered dishonest.
I have to wonder: if Christianity is about love, how come there has been so much hate, cruelty and murder committed in its name? How many innocents did the Christians torture and murder during the Inquisition, the Crusades, and so forth in the name of their gentle Christ? And if Christianity is about forgiveness and charity, how come so many "Christian" Republican politicians are so opposed to any programs that help the poor? How come "Christians" murder abortion doctors and clinic workers?
Regarding Christian Republicans (note that not all Christians are Republicans, and not all Republicans are Christians), some of them oppose government welfare programs because they believe they are ineffective, or because they believe private charities better accomplish the same goals; others are just plain old hypocrites. Does everyone who claims to hold to your ideology perfectly embody every one of its virtues?
Finally, while Christianity preaches the superiority of love, charity, and forgiveness over hatred and violence, it also teaches that all men are sinners, that every person, Christian or otherwise, is capable of committing great evil, and that this is why we need a Savior in the first place. That some Christians do in fact commit evil acts in no way proves Christianity to be false.
Islamic Apologists 101: “Shi'ite Muslims are not real Muslims, but when ISIS and al-Qaeda kill them and blow up their mosques we must yell and scream that ISIS and al-Qaeda are not real Muslims because they’re killing Muslims”