The point of this post is to continue a discussion that started in RESTORING THE BALANCE? It is something of a sequel to ON A TANGENT. I decided to write it when Tony, a regular commenter, left this comment.

“Instead of Jesus being someone who actually did die and rise from the dead, there is just this ‘wonderful book of profound truth and morality’.” (Author’s note: What is in quotes above is an extract from one of my comments.)

“Actually” is such an interesting and confining word for the unfathomable. For example, the Nicene Creed says that there is a God the father (why only male?) and that Jesus is God’s only begotten son. Does that mean that God has sperm and DNA, and that Jesus shares God’s DNA in some new “actual” scientific way, or is it just the same old “actual” scientific way? Perhaps, but who knows? Who will ever know? Would it shake your faith if we could somehow find evidence that Jesus did not have a God gene, but that Jesus had regular human DNA? Doesn’t this just give rise to endless and fruitless theological debates on the level of “How many angels can God fit on the head of a pin?” (continued here)

I suppose if you have not been following the discussion Tony’s comment will not make much sense. What is involved, however, is a debate over the best way to interpret and make use of the Bible. What I am going to do here is note Tony’s objections to my more literal methods and explain myself.

  1. It would appear Tony objects to being pinned down by the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed are fairly similar professions of faith. So if you are familiar with one, you should not find the other a mystery. Because the language of these creeds affirm specific truths that make him uncomfortable, Tony objects to these professions of faith.  He provides the virgin birth as an example. However, this miracle is important to the Christian faith. Jesus’ virgin birth literally made Him the Son of God, and it made that part of the Trinity we call the Father His father. In Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus quotes Psalm 110 and explains.

    Matthew 22:41-46 Good News Translation (GNT)
    41 When some Pharisees gathered together, Jesus asked them,

    42 What do you think about the Messiah? Whose descendant is he?

    He is David’s descendant, they answered.

    43 Why, then, Jesus asked,
    did the Spirit inspire David to call him
    Lord? David said,

    44 The Lord said to my Lord:
    Sit here at my right side
    until I put your enemies under your feet.

    45 If, then, David called him Lord, how can the Messiah be David’s descendant?

    46 No one was able to give Jesus any answer, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

    Anyway, once He decided to do so, I don’t think the Creator of the universe — including all the life on this planet — had any trouble manufacturing the genes He needed for the birth of Jesus.

  2. Playing with words, Tony calls considering the Bible a factual account “literalist materialism,” and he ask why I would do that. The answer? When it is interpreted as a factual account, the Bible makes more logical sense. Although some people prefer to gloss over the fact the authors of the Bible wrote factual accounts, that is what they did. Consider how Luke starts the Book of Luke.

    Luke 1:1-4 Amplified Bible (AMP)
    1 SINCE [as is well known] many have undertaken to put in order and draw up a [thorough] narrative of the surely established deeds which have been accomplished and fulfilled in and among us,

    2 Exactly as they were handed down to us by those who from the [official] beginning [of Jesus’ ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [that is, of the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God],

    3 It seemed good and desirable to me, [and so I have determined] also after having searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,

    4 [ My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been orally instructed.

    The world is as God made it. It matters little how I think God should have made it, and that is for the best. All we can do is try to make sense of what our Creator did and do our best to serve Him. As it happens, I believe He provided us the Bible to help us.

  3. Tony ends with a condemnation.

    I’m not making a moral judgement of the need for such a formulaic statement, or even about its ultimate truth. I don’t claim to know. I’m just saying that for me I find such materialism to be more of an unnecessary distraction than it is helpful to my own faith and enlightenment. On the other hand, if it helps you and others to formulate the infinite into such a statement and pin it on the wall like a honey blond blue eyed Jesus then who am I to condemn it?

    What I do condemn is when someone tries to substitute these substitutes for spiritualism for government.

    What is odd about this condemnation is that I am supposedly trying impose my formulaic statements and ultimate truths upon the way we run government. Literally, I suppose what Tony is saying is true. However, in spirit Tony is absolutely wrong. Consider that what Conservatism involves is limited, constitutional government. So what I advocate involves stopping busybodies from imposing their values and expenses upon other people.

    Why am I a Conservative? I think the Bible requires us to love our neighbor. If I love my neighbor, then I cannot rightly enslave him. I most certainly cannot force my religion upon him. Jesus asked us to believe in Him, and belief requires a voluntary choice.

    Because government exists to force us to make choices we might not otherwise make, every time we make use of it, we risk imposing upon our neighbors. If we love our neighbors, we use government only to protect our neighbors, not force our beliefs upon them or steal from them.

    Thus, I find ridiculous irony in the fact that Liberals have the unmitigated gall to accuse Conservatives of imposing their beliefs upon them. Unfortunately, when a lie is repeated often enough, some people start to believe it.

4 thoughts on “OFF ON A TANGENT OF MY OWN

  1. I know that you are trying to condense in order to make your point but you left out this in my comments and it necessarily completes my thought:

    “Like your doubting namesake, is it necessary for you to rationally theorize and seek such rational scientific evidence of Jesus’ divinity? Does such literalist materialism really get you any closer to comprehending what cannot be rationally comprehended, or would the rationalist St. Thomas have been more blessed if he could have believed with his heart rather than his head?

    You are a scientist by training Tom, and we are all creatures of the age of rationalism. In our time, far more than the past, we demand objective material evidence over the mythological and the spiritual. However, I don’t believe that a statement of the incomprehensible in the form of a rational materialist formula like the Nicene Creed is necessary to my faith. Instead I find it to be a materialist attempt at anthropomorphizing, and thus idolizing, the sacred and the unimaginably mysterious into a limiting rational statement of fact and principle.”

    Such literalism does not make me “uncomfortable.” I agree with you that because God controls reality, then God can make these mythical events explainable by science, or instead, could make it a miracle either beyond the scope of science and/or beyond any other form of complete human comprehension. However, it is their narrative mythical and psychological truth that makes the events aesthetically profound and “real” to us whether or not, and even without the need for literal, scientific proof and dogmatic formulation. With grace from God, I can believe and and have faith in this profound truth without feeling the need or even expecting God to grace me with His greater explanation and complete understanding of how it may have happened literally.

    The story of St. Thomas in the Bible is important to this discussion. Thomas got his physical proof, his literalism, but, after over 2000 years, we still believe in the profound truth of Jesus’ story without even the possibility of such a rational explanation or of the literal evidence that St. Thomas required and enjoyed because we feel the beautiful truth of it with the compassion and love in our hearts.

    In so far as the Nicene Creed can be understood as a product of the mythology, the state politics and the emerging rationalism of the people (mainly Greeks) of the time that it was debated and concocted, I can easily accept much of the broad mythological statements in the Creed as long as I also recognize that we will never comprehend “literally” and “materially” or scientifically what it God is or what it means for God to “beget”, or what the Holy Spirit is or how we can have a polytheist trinity that is also monotheism, or what and where heaven is, or a dozen other statements in the Creed that give rise to endless and superfluous academic debate without the slightest possibility really “actually” proving anything.

    It is irrational and even ironic to admit that you don’t and can’t ever completely literally and rationally comprehend, prove or explain a statement (such as how God beget Jesus or the mystery of the Holy Trinity) and then to be rationally dogmatic about its veracity. It would seem to me that the only way that I can approach the veracity of such metaphorical and mysterious truth as we find in the Bible is with an openness and humility of ignorance that does not really lend itself to dogmatism. It certainly makes no sense to me to claim such dogmatism about sacred things that inherently defy dogmatism and claim that dogmatism as the basis for our profane politics.


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