Archive for the ‘The Bible’ Category

Jesus’ Take on the “Occupy” Protests?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 by JEL

Given that much of the wrath of the OWS crowd seems directed at the too-big-to-fail banks whose executives seem to bring home the bacon regardless of market conditions, I’m guessing that Jesus might just be among the protesters.

The alternative is to return to the subversive teachings of Christ. Jesus showed little patience with religious institutions. He was mostly concerned with people outside them. One of the central events of his life was a famous piece of direct action in the Jerusalem Temple, where he “overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves”.

The above block was pulled from a story about the Occupy London movement and how St. Paul’s cathedral fears the protest is keeping the tourists away.

That Ole’ Lefty Bible

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by JEL

We here at What He Said headquarters have long scratched our head at religious folks and their conservative views. It’s part of the reason why we created the book in the first place. Do conservative Christians ever actually read the Bible, and the Four Gospels in particular? Those messages about helping the needy and the poor? Funny how Jesus never says the poor should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Sandalstraps?

Christianity Today published an interesting analysis of the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey which asked a whole range of folks about their Bible reading and views on a variety of topics. The survey found that people who read the Bible the most tend to be more conservative, BUT BUT BUT the more these same folks read it, especially on their own, the more liberal their views become. That pesky Jesus!

Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible’s prominence in our society, it’s little wonder that many people think they know what’s in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

How Close and How Far?

Monday, October 10th, 2011 by JEL

Who knows if Mitt Romney will be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012. I do know that his Mormon faith will be getting an increasing amount of attention as the next thirteen months tick by. Mormons say they are “Christian,” but many Christians say/believe that Mormons are not Christian.

I found this Reuters “Factbox” illuminating. Among the article’s points:

  • The religion is growing fast and half of its members live outside the U.S. (many in Latin America).
  • “Mormons have three books of scripture other than the Bible.”
  • “Mormons also believe that Jesus visited the Americas after his resurrection and that there is no eternal hell.”
  • The church policy of polygamy was removed in 1890 as a bargaining chip for Utah statehood.

And two more:

* The LDS Church says it is truly Christian, believes in Jesus Christ and corrected mistakes it says mainline Christianity made in its early centuries. But it has a different view of the Trinity from mainline Christians and additional teachings — such as the prophesies of Joseph Smith, Jesus’s visit to America, baptism of the dead or the existence of God the Father married to a Heavenly Mother — that those churches reject as unbiblical or un-Christian.

* While most Christian churches do not require rebaptism if a believer switches from one denomination to another, Mormons do not recognize baptisms in other churches and require all converts from those churches to be rebaptised. The Roman Catholics and Methodists require converts from Mormonism to be rebaptised while other Christian churches cast serious doubt on the validity of Mormon baptism.

Bible Readers Want Accuracy

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 by JEL

When we were drawing up plans for What He Said, there were a number of paths we could have taken. There are plenty of books out there that take Jesus’ quotes in the Bible and package them in a myriad of ways. We chose an alternate route: to present them unedited, word-for-word, and in context. We used design to improve the usability and readability, not editorial edict.

A new survey from LifeWay Research seems to confirm our approach. They asked 2,000 people who read the Bible by themselves (outside of church) or as part of a family activity a number of questions about the Bible.

When asked whether they prefer “word-for-word translations, where the original words are translated as exactly as possible” or “thought-for-thought translations, where the translators attempt to reproduce the intent of the original thought rather than translating the exact words,” 61 percent chose word-for-word.

Other findings:

  • 68 percent want language to be simpler to understand while 7 percent want it to be more difficult to understand.
  • 81 percent say it should be more enjoyable to read while 4 percent prefer it to be more of a chore to read.
  • 27 percent favor contemporary language while 46 percent want traditional language.
  • 36 percent want more modern language while 37 percent favor more old-fashioned language.
  • 19 percent feel understanding the language should require a higher level of education while 49 percent say it should not require a higher level of education.
  • 63 percent believe it should be simple for anyone to understand while 14 percent say the language should be meant more for people who have a lot of experience with the Bible.
  • 40 percent prefer more formal language while 26 percent say should be more informal.
  • 22 percent want language more for casual reading while 44 percent say it should be designed more for in-depth study.

Easy to read and word-for-word accurate: What He Said.

 

That Pesky Evolution Problem

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 by JEL

Darwin’s theory on the evolution of species has had its detractors from the beginning. If we evolved from apes, they say, what happens to that Bible narrative on the creation of Adam and Eve? An excellent question, and one they choose to simply sweep under the rug. And then not bring up in their evangelical colleges. And oh, by the way, stay away from that museum down the street that has dinosaur bones dating back a few hundred million years.

This post from Mathew Schmalz extends the question much further. In it, he talks about how Catholics have never had the problems with evolution that evangelicals do. And then he continues:

But there is a problem with evolution nonetheless. My views in this regard have changed in dialogue with many evangelical colleagues whom I respect. For them, the issue is not Biblical inerrancy as much as it is probing the theological implications of Darwin’s theories. For example, if there is no radical distinction between humans and animals, when do human beings become “human?” When does a human have a “soul” that can be saved? More broadly, what theological sense can Christians make of a natural world that operates on Darwinian principles?

[...]

To be sure, much of the resistance to evolution comes from a need to defend a particular construal of “Biblical truth”-after all, if the Bible is shown to be false in one aspect, it throws into question the entirety of scripture. Some of the resistance also stems from a misunderstanding of what a scientific theory actually is. But the real problem with evolution is that Christians have yet to reflect deeply on how they fit into a Darwinian world.

“Christianity and War”

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 by JEL

I’ve long been perplexed by the view so many American Christians share on war. Killing foreigners just never seems to bother them, especially if these foreigners are not Christians, themselves. This view already puts them in Jesus’ doghouse, but then there’s their hypocrisy to deal with. Namely, their virulent pro-life stance. “Pro-life” means just what it says: preserving the sanctity of human life. Except to these folks, they narrow it down to unborn American babies. Innocent civilians on the other side of the world who happen to have the misfortune of getting in the way of a bullet or bomb be damned.

Today I ran across an article on the libertarian Lew Rockwell site, of all places. It was written by Laurence M. Vance and I think it makes a number of strong points. Here are some snippets, but please check out the whole thing:

I write extensively about the biblical, economic, and political fallacies of religious people, and especially on the topic of Christianity and war. This is a subject where ignorance abounds in both pulpit and pew, and most of it willful ignorance. This is a subject that exposes Bible scholars as Bible illiterates. This is a subject that turns Christians into disgraceful apologists of the state, its leaders, its military, and its wars. This is a subject that reveals pro-life Christians to be two-faced supporters of wholesale murder.

[...]

But modern-day Christianity is in a sad state. There is an unholy desire on the part of a great many Christians to legitimize killing in war. There persists the idea among too many Christians that mass killing in war is acceptable, but the killing of one’s neighbor violates the sixth commandment’s prohibition against killing.

[...]

Many Christians have a warped view of what it means to be pro-life. Why is it that foreigners don’t have the same right to life as unborn American babies? There should be no difference between being for abortion and for war. Both result in the death of innocents. Both are unnecessary. Both cause psychological harm to the one who signs a consent form or fires a weapon. Why is it that to many Christians an American doctor in a white coat is considered a murderer if he kills an unborn baby, but an American soldier in a uniform is considered a hero if he kills an adult?

There’s a lot more where that came from. Read the whole thing.

Adam & Eve vs. Genomes

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by JEL

If you happen to believe the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, you might be peeved to find those pesky scientists knocking on your door again.

Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

This comes from a very interesting story on NPR (listen below). I found the comments from Evangelicals particularly fascinating.

Go listen to the story >> (7 min. 44 sec.)

Words and Their Meaning

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by JEL

CNN posted a video on Friday called “The Language of Christianity.” It’s short, nicely produced, and has the Christian blogosphere up in arms. In a nutshell, the video talks about Christian words like “salvation,” “rapture,” and even “believe” and then discusses how their essential meanings have changed over the past two-thousand years. If you happen to believe the world is over 6,000 years old, give the video a look:

The Real Marriage Problem

Monday, July 25th, 2011 by JEL

So New York becomes the sixth state in the nation to allow homosexual marriage. Given that the other five states haven’t tumbled into the fiery abyss since their laws passed, we don’t anticipate New York getting uncomfortably warm, either. At least not from gay marriage.

Gabe Lyons, evangelical leader and author of The Next Christians, isn’t concerned either. He thinks the problem with marriage today has nothing (or at least little) to do with the gay/lesbian community:

“This degradation of marriage is due, not to the 2.8 percent of those who identify as LGBT in our society, but to the heterosexuals with spoiled marriages and the increasingly popular hook-up culture in the younger generation.”

He also said Christians should be talking not just about a Biblical definition of marriage:

“but also how to choose a spouse, how to maintain healthy marriages, and how to weather the storms of marriage that every couple must face.”

Sounds reasonable to me. Besides being reasonable, Mr. Lyons also sounds downright optimistic.

 

A Definition

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by JEL

I hear the term “progressive Christianity” bandied about a little more frequently these days. Maybe like me, you’re not exactly sure what the term means. I had a general idea, but Wikipedia helped out with a more formal definition:

Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed (see Minority groups) and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” (John 15:17) within the teaching of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on compassion, promoting justice and mercy, tolerance, and working towards solving the societal problems of poverty, discrimination, and environmental issues. They stress Collective Salvation as a requirement toward salvation of society.”

Other than the collective salvation bit, I always thought that’s what “plain old Christianity” was supposed to stand for. Reading the Gospels sure makes one think so.