Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pascal Wagering myself to a new man.

I've seen Christians on quite a few blogs proclaiming that that even if their faith proves to be false, at least they've lived a good life, and don't lost anything. Yet if all the non-Christians are wrong, there will be hell to pay.

That moment of brilliance just came to me. I didn't plan the paragraph that way.

Yet, Christianity is also supposed to be life-changing. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've seen a Christian saying about another Christian that "s/he is doing it wrong." True Christians aren't hateful, spiteful, mean, rude, cruel, anything negative you can think of. A true Christian has been re-born, and now has the Holy Spirit residing in him/her, and is slowly growing to develop the fruits of the spirit.

I don't see how the two ideas can co-exist. If you're clinging to faith out of a fear of hell, or feel that if you're wrong in the end, you won't have lost anything, how can that be life-changing? How can that type of attitude produce any sort of growth, or make someone throw off the old man for the new? Pascal's Wager is -- in today's times -- pretty much a fear-based wager. And how can fear help develop any sort of Spirit-fruits?

I feel that Pascal's Wager discredits a major claim of Christianity -- the complete moral overhaul, which produces a "new man."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

God is absent, except when He's not.

God is just. Hell is the absence of God. Hell is where people go if they reject God, for God is a just God, and sin must be paid for.

So if Hell is experiencing the justice of God, doesn't that mean that God is not absent from Hell?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gobble-planning God.

I see a lot of comments all over the place about how a Christian had a plan for his/her life. A plan that s/he was passionate about, and wanted more than anything else. The plan never occurred, and the Christian ends up doing something different with his/her life.

The Christian then claims that the life s/he now has, the one that God planned, is so much better than anything the Christian attempted to do on his/her own.

How does the Christian know this? How could any of us know this unless we experienced both options, and were able to compare them equally? I can understand someone saying, "Based on the evidence I have available, I can conclude that the life I have now is better than the life I thought I wanted." And I can understand someone using "know" in that context. Yet that isn't the context I get when Christians say that the life they have now is better than the one they planned -- rather, this is absolute, 100%, do not pass doubt-Go certainty.

And they can be that certain. Yet I would say these are the same Christians who would turn around and tell atheists that atheists can't make the claim that there is no God, because atheists haven't been to every corner of the universe, or something like that. So if one can't know there isn't a God unless one has examined every microscopic corner of the universe, one can't say that s/he knows God's plans are better than the original idea, as that person hasn't lived both plans.

Note -- I'm talking about people who were passionate about option A, and are now living option B and claim to do so passionately. I'm not talking about someone who's option A was a dead-end job, and option B is the most exciting job imaginable. Then again, I don't think we can say that anyone ever really plans on having a dead-end job, can we.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Truth forecast: cloudy

A lot of the justification I see in terms of the Bible is how its truth has stood firm over the last 2,000 years or so: what was true in the time of Jesus is true today.

If this is the case, shouldn't we expect the understanding and interpretation to have not varied that entire time?

I recently came across a post from a rather well-known Christian (in Christian circles, at least) about Matthew 25, and the parable of the talents. This person was connecting the parable to how Christians use what God has given them. The parable was "obviously" meant to show how God will react with how we respond to our talents: if we use them to produce results, as the first two servants did, then God will be pleased. If we are like the lazy servant, and fear losing the talent, then God will cast us away.

One problem with that interpretation -- according to The Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, the above interpretation isn't anywhere close to what's going on in the parable.

To quote:

In the "limited good" world of the first-centuary Mediterranen, however, seeking "more" was morally wrong ... because the pie was "limited" and already all distributed, an increase in the share of one person automatically meant a loss for someone else. Honorable people, therefore, did not try to get more and those who did were automatically considered thieves. Noblemen avoided such accusations of getting rich at the expense of others by having their affairs handled by slaves. Such behavior could be condoned in slaves since slaves were without honor anyway ...
When the day of accounting arrives, we find the master rewarding those who were vicious enough, shameless enough, to increase his wealth for him at the expense of so many others. These slaves, in fact, are just like their master. For we find out from the third slave (and the master agrees) that indeed, the master himself is quite rapacious and shameless "a hard man, reaping where he did not sow and gathering where he did not scatter seed." In other words, he is by definition a thief. A "hard" man is one whose eyes/heart, mouth/ears, and hands/feet are rigid, non functioning, arrogantly inhumane ...
From the peasant point of view, therefore, it was the third slave who acted honorably, especially since he refused to participate in the rapacious schemes of the greedy, rich man. Moreover, the harsh condemnation he received at the hands of the greedy owner, as well as the reward to to servants who cooperated, is just what peasants had learned to expect.
Pages 124-125.

So my question is, if it's the Holy Spirit that leads the reader to the correct interpretation of Biblical passages, shouldn't our interpretation today match the understanding from 2,000 years ago? Rather than being a direct opposite?

It's situations like these, where a correct interpretation is dependent on understanding historical context, and the common interpretation pretty much matches how the Western Society behaves, that makes me feel religion as a whole is man-made and man-directed. It would be much more convincing to have someone with no understanding of that culture come to interpret the parable of talents the way it was understood back then.