Posts Tagged ‘Christ’
The Test of Truth
What better test of truth do we have than the ablest men’s acceptance of it?
So asked the historian J A Froude in his 1851 essay, “The Philosophy of Christianity”. He was defending Christianity against the accusation of being intellectually absurd, practically an offence and generally a misfortune. In essence, he was arguing that the best minds could not have been wrong for 1800 years. Or, if they were, then we have no basis for believing anything, for whatever it is might turn out to be just as absurd, offensive and unfortunate.
Well, for good or ill, that is nevertheless what science does teach. Science has to be corrigible or it cannot make progress. So what is true today, may not be true tomorrow. Science determines what is true by testing its ideas against reality. If they can predict reality—if the ideas work—then they are considered true, but not otherwise. A Christian has the idea that there is a mighty personal power in the universe that can do what it likes. Science would want to know how that can be tested.
One way would be to say, God answers prayers and therefore changes reality. We can test that. Yet no such test of the effectiveness of prayer has ever produced a convincing result. When they have seemed to, a fault in the method has been found skewing the results. So the idea of God has not so far been confirmed by science, and consequently scientists cannot accept the idea of God. For the corollary of testing is that we do not believe what is not shown to be true. It is called skepticism. The Christian understands it for they are skeptical of all other claims of divinity other than those of their own gods.
So, by this process of incremental testing, science accumulates knowledge. The increments are most often small ones, but sometimes a basic idea might need to be changed and then a large step is necessary, called a paradigm shift. But rarely is any new truth far removed from an older one, and always it must be a better one, more precise or comprehensive.
Religions are not generally corrigible, but, on the contrary, claim to be permanently fixed by the all encompassing power of the universe called God. It is not strictly true, of course, authorities like the pope or some council somewhere do change religions, and, besides that, they evolve from generation to generation, therefore imperceptibly to each in its day. As it is fixed by God, at least notionally, it needs no criterion of truth. A religion is accepted by a child or convert as being true—they are assured it is the only truth—and thereafter there can be no basis for questioning the truth of it.
Even so, Christians are allowed and perhaps encouraged to doubt, as long as the doubt is not itself allowed to change belief. It is not therefore a genuine doubt, for a real doubt can be resolved in one of at least two opposite ways. To be genuine, doubt must frequently lead to a loss of faith, something the local priest or pastor cannot allow to happen for that is to let a church member fall into sin and hell fire, a serious matter, they think. Consequently, the doubt of the Christian is to be countered by a firm application of faith bolstered by the assistance of the ablest of church men in accepting “the truth”. In short, Christian doubt is spurious. It is a mere test of a faith which once applied generously should cure the patient.
Knowing No Better
As churches have no criterion of truth other than faith, Froude’s criterion is the one they always have used. It is the reason why religions base themselves on authority—the judgement of the ablest of the men among them. It is not therefore an objective criterion of truth, but the opposite—these able men accept the truth they have been taught, and have no other criterion than what they have been told. It is biased, and there is no way of rebutting the bias in it except by contradiction. Yet throughout that 1800 years, it was the only “truth” available, so even the ablest did not notice the bias or felt unwilling to contradict it, probably for love of their mortal lives, the lure of heavenly bliss notwithstanding. Had we been in the same situation, with no alternative to the “truth” offered us besides death, we would have been the same.
So, the modern skeptic ought not to scoff at the Sumerians “feeding” their gods because it was their duty as god’s slaves to do so, and if the priests always looked well fed, it was because the gods looked upon them favorably! They ought not to scoff at Abraham being willing to sacrifice a child to his god because that is what Canaanites did, according to their beliefs, and as many were poor and could not afford to support large families, they might have been grateful that their gods were pleased to take back a child. Nor ought we to scoff at a medieval Catholic peasant brought up to the “absurdities” of Christianity for those were all they were allowed to know, for they could not read their bibles for themselves, unlike the modern Protestant who chooses not to and therefore believes everything except what Christ taught them. We are entitled to scoff at them.
The modern skeptic scoffs at those who now should know better, but prefer to put their heads in a bucket because Christ sounds more like a liberal than a libertarian. These people do not want to know the truth but still want to profess “the truth” as they define it. Today we have proven methods of investigating the truth of things, and we have criteria for truth so as to test that it indeed is. It is those who are perverse and refuse to consider the progress we have made in investigating reality who deserve the disdain of the scoffers. Whatever the ablest once thought, though wrong, was excusable then, but it is inexcusable now.
Possibly primitive people took it for granted that the earth was flat, but by the time of the Greeks of Alexandria, it had been proven to be a sphere. We are justified perhaps in scoffing at those after then who still believed in the flatness of the earth, depending on their level of education, but we are led to believe that many even of the ablest men still believed it. Of course, a reason for the lamentable education of everyone except the very rich, and even some of them, was that the Church had refused to copy any books it deemed superfluous—most of them except Latin and Greek grammar books for priestly education, bibles and devotional books. It suggests how dangerous and destructive mere faith is.
Contrary to Froude therefore, the ablest men are not necessarily right and can be utterly wrong en masse when alternatives are forbidden and scholarship is considered subversive. It is those who were willing to speak up for alternatives to “the truth” whom we can thank for the modern world’s achievements.
Good and Evil
Yet “the truth” persists in the face of truth, and we are held back by a large number of people who will not let go of medieval religion, even in the knowledge of the technological sophistication achieved in our world. Matter was the source of evil. The Persians had solved the problem of theodicy by conceiving a wicked god whose aim was to spoil everything the good God did. These were metaphors for the bad and good behavior that humans could choose between—we were meant to choose good and reject wickedness. We ourselves had to choose with every decision we made and act accordingly. Given sufficient people choosing “good”, the world would be good.
Unsophisticated people cannot understand abstracts and have to think they are like real solid, perhaps living, beings, albeit supernatural—they are out there! So the metaphors always became actual entities for the simple. As is the inevitable rule dictated by opportunism and human selfishness, the simple creed, “good thoughts, good words, good deeds”, was changed. The individual was not directly to blame by making the wrong choices, instead the wicked entity had infected the material world, which was therefore contaminated with wickedness. Choices still had to be made, but the presumption was that worldwide pollution left everyone compromised. In Christianity, it became “Original Sin”.
The ablest men could now have little or nothing to do with the material world. They were safer withdrawing from it rather than trying to make the right choices while living in it. They had to be devout, had to exercise their minds with prayer and incessantly praising God, so as to leave no room for anything but God, and thereby cease to be a normal human to ensure entry into God’s angelic kingdom after death. Real life and the real world had no purpose, unless ceaseless other worldly devotions are considered it. Needless to say, if everyone did that, then we should all die. But many of the ablest did just that, albeit many with an utter lack of sincerity, paying lip service to piety while fully enjoying the temptations of the sinful world.
The crucifixion of the good God while visiting the earth as a man had saved all believing Christians from the wickedness around them, so they might as well seek high office, palaces, good food, fine wines, seraglios, and so on, while they were here, content in the knowledge they already had the key to the Pearly Gate. Though their own God while on earth had blessed poverty and damned the rich, they saw no incongruity, continuing to think they had been saved by their belief, even though they made no effort to act upon the moral instructions the incarnated God had issued from his own mouth.
The material world was a world of disease, decay and death, a world in which entropy inevitably increased, but another world free of entropy awaited simply for accepting “the truth”. Matter is the cause of evil, and Christianity is the cure. Mere belief in Christ, a savior, is the magic salvific thought. No choice of good deeds over evil ones was necessary, and so nothing in the wicked world could, in fact, change. There was no will to do it, as there had once been. Reward came after death. That was it.
Christ taught an admirably practical philosophy, but Christians sidelined it. Now, not only is Christianity intellectually absurd, practically an offence and generally a misfortune, it is the ultimate scam.
Loren A Yadon, pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise, writes in The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column with the rhetorical question, “What would be the consequences to the Christian faith if we denied the existence of hell?”.
First, the credibility of Christ and the Bible is at stake. The idea of hell did not come from medieval tradition, but from the lips of Jesus himself. Interestingly, Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. The word, “gehenna”, was used 12 times to describe the destiny of the wicked in the New Testament. Jesus used that word 11 of those 12 occasions. In Luke 16:19-31, he told a story about the destinies of two men after their deaths. When telling a parable, Jesus never gave the characters of his illustrations proper names. So when he called this beggar by the name of Lazarus, we are left with the impression these two men actually existed. When Lazarus died, his soul went to “the bosom of Abraham”, an expression of eternal bliss. But when the rich man passed away, he found himself in a place of torment with an expanse separating him from everyone. Only he who claimed to come from eternity could describe what takes place in that realm. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus said he will serve as the judge at the end of history. He said some people would be sentenced to “everlasting punishment” and others to “eternal life”.
Secondly, if hell did not exist, there would be no need for Jesus to come to Earth. In John 3:16, he told Nicodemus that God so loved people that he sent his son as the savior to rescue them from perishing. Rescue them from what? The “hell” they have made of their lives? Certainly. But there was also an eternal component to the idea. Jesus and his apostles were convinced people would perish without Christ. He was saving people from an awful fate.
Third, if there is no hell, then Jesus’ death on the cross was meaningless, and his claims to purchase salvation are bogus. If people are all right as they are, then history’s most seminal moment was pointless.
And fourth, if there is no hell, then final justice will never be served. Not everything has been made right in life, therefore some things must be judged in eternity. The cry for justice has reverberated down through the centuries as martyrs and victims have cried, “How long, O Lord?” Will the dictators who have butchered people never have to account for their slaughter? Some day all unsolved crimes in history will be judged, and righteous punishment will be administered. The reason why Christians are told not to seek revenge is that God promised, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay!” (Romans 12:19). And so we rest, knowing we can leave eternal matters into the most fair, loving, and just hands of God. Knowing the heart of God, we are confident that only those deserving of such a fate will be in hell.
While no one wants to make the existence of hell the focus of their faith, we must not avoid the idea either. If I read the Bible correctly, and if Christ can be trusted to be truthful, then the Christian teaching about eternity is balanced on the existence of both heaven and hell.
Christians are notorious for propagating just what they want their simple dabblers in religion to believe. Pastor Loren wants there to be a hell, and gives us some reasons why there is one, but, though there seems little doubt that the biblical authors assume it, the real question is “what is it?”. According to Revelation (20:14;21:8), the fiery place considered to be hell is where sinners suffer the “second death”—the final, “once and for all death”, for God can destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28)! Unless Christians want to think their God of love is such a monstrous torturer that he will torture someone excruciatingly forever, sinners are not perpetually tortured by continuous burning, they are burnt to death spiritually, quickly and finally. On that view, God punishes sinners but does not torture them.
Moreover Gehenna was a valley next to Jerusalem where the city’s rubbish was burnt, and Jesus plainly uses it metaphorically as equivalent to the place where the spiritual rubbish will be burnt when the tares are separated from the wheat at Judgement. The fiery lake of sulphur is a metaphysical Gehenna for the final combustion of irretrievably wicked souls, and that is the second death. The antithesis of eternal life is eternal death, not eternal punishment, so salvation is being saved from the second death, and eternal life is having the reward for the righteous—those with good souls. But everlasting burning sounds impossibly horrible, so became a biblical bogeyman for Christian pastors to scare their congregations into compliance.
Comments on the Four Items
- Jesus promised that the poor were saved—they were blessed—that is what it means. Lazarus, the poor beggar, was saved in “the bosom of Abraham”. Dives, the rich man was not. It was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. That means it is impossible! It does not deter the rich from getting richer and richer, but the end of the parable clearly says “they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead”! Nor have they been, but what do they care. Well, if they profess Christianity, they should.
- “If hell did not exist, there would be no need for Jesus to come to Earth. In John 3:16, he told Nicodemus that God so loved people that he sent his son as the savior to rescue them from perishing. Rescue them from what?” John 3:16 says nothing about Jesus rescuing anybody, but simply that Jesus was sent so that people need not perish. To perish is to die! That is bad enough for someone who is setting their heart on the promise of everlasting life, but Pastor Loren wants it to be even more dreadful than death. Don’t they all? It is a large element of clerical control. Salvation is from perpetual death—the second death which is the reward of wicked souls.
- This is incomprehensible. If a Christian thinks Jesus saved them in some sense by his death, then he still does. Goodness is rewarded still by eternal life—wickedness by eternal spiritual death.
- Why is hell necessary for some metaphysical final justice? Final justice is still served by the second final death of the wicked. “Will the dictators who have butchered people never have to account for their slaughter?” At the final judgement, why must the Pastor assume that only wicked dictators will have to appear to account for their slaughter and butchery? If unjust killing is a criterion for burning in hell, what US president would escape. They have ordered the killing of millions of innocents abroad—Libyans, Afghans and Iraqis, and several million Vietnamese bombed and poisoned monstrously a while back. This mass murder has been carried out with the approval of most of the USA’s Christians.
And what sort of hypocrisy is this? “Christians are told not to seek revenge as God promised, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay!’ (Romans 12:19).” If this is so, then why are US Christians so keen on vengeance themselves, and as a nation? They are Christians only in church, and cannot, and see no need to, relate Christ’s morality to the real world. That is why they are so fond of citing Paul rather than God in the form of Jesus Christ. Here Paul cites Deuteronomy, the oldest law in the Jewish Scripture because it is most likely the original law of Moses! That Old Testament God is noted for being vengeful, but the Pastor and Paul rightly tell their readers that revenge is for God only—not even Christians! She might have added that Paul goes on to cite Proverbs 25:21: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink”, something that is much more Christian.
Does Pastor Loren really think that Christians who have approved of mass butchery and slaughter will be welcome in the kingdom of God? Does any Christian seriously think they can approve of serial murder and even participate in it and still be a candidate for eternal life? Heaven must be full of crooks and murderers. Read the bible again. Sinners are not welcome in God’s kingdom. Christ says explicitly and graphically that anyone tempted into sin would be better off plucking out their eye than letting it tempt them into sin and losing the promised reward. Eyes are of no value to those burnt up in the second death in hell—the spiritually dead.
Maybe it is a shame there is no fiery hell or perpetual torture. Plenty of Christians should finish up there, but fortunately for them they’ll just suffer the second death and, while expecting everlasting life, they’ll get a simple quick fry up of their wicked souls. They should be “Thanking the Lord”.
The pastor writes in concluding, “If I read the Bible correctly”. Sadly most Christians, pastors included, just do not study and so do not understand their own incarnated God—or the studying they do is taught by their false teachers, like Paul the fraudulent apostle, and the modern apostles of Mammon with their ten million capitalist disciples. Christ told Christians they were to remove the beams from their own eyes before trying to get specks from the eyes of others. Christians think they are warriors fighting God’s fight, but the point of the parable of beams and specks is that first they must be pure and of pellucid clarity of vision themselves. That is too hard. It’s much easier to blame everyone else, label them all indiscriminately as wicked, and continue unwittingly as the Antichrist’s stormtroopers.