Posts Tagged ‘Christian’
I happened to chance upon a website by an historian who turned out to be one of the varieties of fundamentalist right wing authoritarian Christians, one Nathan Albright. The page was a review of a book critical of Christianity, so this “historian” gave it a very bad notice. I have no idea what this book was otherwise about or whether it was any good, but what interested me was what this blogger’s review revealed about himself. So I put a comment on the page saying that his own views seemed shockingly confused for a Christian historian. He kept speaking of “biblical law”, so I asked him whether he meant the law of Moses, asking what relevance that had to a Christian, expecting him to say something about its relevance to the way Jesus must have thought, having been raised as a pious Jew, but not expecting a Christian to consider the Mosaic law valid since God incarnated on earth, as Christians are supposed to believe.
He also spoke of “biblical punishments”, a curious concept, I thought since the right to punish was God’s own right, according to Christ, and the punishments prescribed in the Old Testament were diametrically opposed to anything that the God of love could have required His earthly slaves to practice. I continued:
Is the bible God? Are you God to know just what punishments God might choose to mete out? Christ makes a firm point that it is not for us to judge, and for what it is worth 1 Peter says we ought not even to revile others. If you think the laws of the Jews still reproduced in the Old Testament are as important as the lessons delivered by the Christian incarnated God, uttered from his own lips, then you should be a Jew not a Christian. Your whole emphasis on law is wrong. Christ teaches personal morality. When that is right, there is no need for law. So while you refer to the book’s author as being “so incoherent and self-contradictory”, you should be aware that you are no different.
In his further criticisms, he seemed particularly occupied by the author’s opinions of the Gnostics, and a strong desire to distance Christianity from Gnosticism, so I turned to this, and persisted with some other phrases that concerned him:
While it might be true that Gnostics were not Christians, there is much in the New Testament that is gnostic showing that early Christians took some ideas from the Gnostics, and in the confusion of the earliest Christian centuries there was much hybridizing between local churches and sects. In any case, Gnosticism and Judaism both had Persian roots, and Christianity itself incorporates many concepts of the Persian religion, including that of the Saviour (Persian, Saoshyant). You also seem to dislike the author’s alleged “left agenda”. What constitutes a “left agenda”? It is of some interest in the world right now, with protests everywhere in the world at the way the social contract has been torn up so that most people can be left destitute while a few have so much it would take a lifetime to give away. For that indeed was what Christ, your own God, told you to do, and inasmuch as that is an egalitarian measure, it counts as being left wing, doesn’t it? No Christian can leave most of the population of the world destitute while enjoying the life of Riley themselves. Certainly “obedience” is a quality that the rich value in the poor, but did the Good God grant us free will so that we have to be uncritically obedient to “our betters”? Indeed can it seriously be argued that a Good God will punish us for not obeying Him, even though he apparently gave us that very right?
Amusingly, he reviled the writer for “choosing for herself which selective quotation she wants to make”. To which I commented:
Coming from a Christian, who pointedly cites several selected quotations, some from the Jewish scriptures, not the Christian ones, to suit his own interpretation, it looks like a spoof.
The inadvertant spoofiness of the writer revealed itself several times later, because he was evidently a perfect example of Christ’s parable about the mote and the beam. He was utterly blind to his own failings, failings that he saw in spades in others though he himself was the one who had them in spades.
The rest of the exchange went as follows. I concluded my initial comment thus:
Christ taught morality and morals are those practices we adopt to make living together agreeable. That is the meaning of Christian love, the attention the Good Samaritan paid to the accosted Jew—concern, kindness, care, attention, help, benevolence, protection—and the meaning of his being a Samaritan is that he was considered an enemy by Jews. I expect that can be written off, by a Christian so-called, as left wing too.
Your knowledge of God’s law and biblical history appears shockingly weak, let me provide you some information of where you woefully fall short.
You are spoofing us again, surely. You say you are a Christian and an historian, so your Christianity takes precedent over your history. That is the reason why there is no such thing as a “Christian scholar”. Christianity is antithetical to scholarship. What of history? You say my history falls woefully short, but yours is simply woeful.
The concept of a savior or deliverer is not borrowed from Mithratic Persian religion as you falsely claim, but was present in biblical religion from the earliest times (see Genesis 3:16-17).
What is the relevance of this citation to the precedence of Persian or Jewish religions?
Do you, allegedly a historian think Genesis was written in “the earliest times”? Genesis is most unlikely to be even the oldest book in the bible? As an historian you go on evidence, don’t you? What is your evidence for believing Genesis was written in the earliest times? No one could write at all in the earliest times, and the earliest evidence for recording data comes from Mesopotamia, not Palestine. Some of the myths of Sumer and Babylon are recorded in Genesis, myths like “the Flood”, but no serious historian considers them historical. They are old myths, and they have been copied from the early civilizations of Mesopotamia which preceded the Jews and Judaism by at least a millennium. The bible itself reports the beginning of Judaism, considering it as a return from exile, actually a deportation of people from Mesopotamia, during the Persian period! The law was then read out to them by Ezra in a foreign tongue. So the bible was compiled after this event. Judaism is therefore later than, and dependent on, the concepts of Persian religion.
You assume that the Jewish scriptures and Christian scriptures are different, following after the Marcionite heresy. This is a mistaken assumption.
It is not an assumption as anyone who can read can confirm for themselves. If they are the same, if not in fact, in meaning, then what was the point of Christ? Just a human sacrifice? Now you cite Paul (2 Timothy 4:16-17), but you mean to cite chapter 3. If Paul wrote the pastoral epistles, he plainly referred only to the scripture then extant, what Christians call the Old Testament, so his mention of “all scripture” seemed to allow for other scriptures that did not gain entry to the Jewish canon. As Paul was considerably influenced by the Gnostics that you despise so much, he might have even meant some of the Gnostic writings. He certainly could not have meant by it “what would be called both the Old Testament and the New Testament by most Christians”, at a time when the New Testament did not exist. If these epistles are post Pauline works, as seems more likely, they could have been written when some at least of the New Testament already existed, but then the Church was obviously plugging its New Testaments—the gospels in particular—in addition to those the Jews and the early Christians knew, mainly the Jewish scriptures written in Greek, the Septuagint, which are incidentally, the oldest Jewish scriptures known.
Therefore, a quotation from Mosaic law is fully applicable for Christians today (though to be interpreted through the lenses of Christianity to be sure).
Your own failing as a Christian is emphasized here in what you add as an incidental comment. If God appeared on earth to do more than to be sacrificed as an atonement, then Christ’s teaching must have been meant to supersede or at least correct the previous law. Parts of the gospels suggest he did intend that, and many Christians throughout the history of Christendom have believed it. Christ himself, however, as a devout Jew, denied it. Yet he introduced an entirely new emphasis on love and poverty that are not obvious in the Jewish scriptures. If you as a Christian are to follow the line you are preaching, your passing parenthesis is crucially important to Christianity, for the whole point of love, to Christ, God to Christians, is that the Mosaic law has to be read with loving intent. If there is no such reading available, then love should prevail. No modern Christian, even sincere ones, would consider much of Leviticus as being even remotely applicable today, and have no qualms about ignoring it. Yet some of Christ’s own teachings are restatements of some Levitical laws. Christians, for example, have to be perfect like their father in heaven, but most of them consider it too hard even though Christ himself said it as a paraphrase of Leviticus. That, they ought to aim to do, as Christians, but do not, and murdering people whether witches or homosexuals or adulterers, and so on, are not at all loving and ought to be rejected by Christians with barely a thought about it. It is easier to believe what Christ himself plainly taught than to go back uncritically to the Mosaic laws. If you are a Jew, then fine, stick by Moses, but to be a Christian you ought to stick by Christ. In neither case would you stick by Paul, as almost all Christians do, even to the exclusion of God Himself, in the shape of Christ.
The left-wing agenda I am referring to is a hostility to authority.
So Christ was not hostile to authority, even though he took a whip to people going about their lawful business in the temple court, tipping up their tables and scattering their animals and birds. Come on, historian. Take off the Christian blinkers. Christ was hanged as a man opposed to Roman authority. That very act of rampaging through the temple was a criminal act under Roman law. Indeed, it was the very act of defying authority, and that was a capital crime.
It would include the support of those revolutionaries against social order,
…except in the case when God is doing it, eh?
You are at liberty to peruse my blogs myself, though you will find much reference to biblical law that troubles you as an antinomian.
Perhaps I shall, but you are spoofing again, for you are, as I have noted just now, like all Christians, an antinomian when the nomos does not suit you.
You say I am very mistaken on some aspects of historical analysis yet you, as an historian, still use Justin Martyr’s absurd excuse (ca 150 AD) for Christian practice mimicking that of extant religions—it was all Satan’s doing. I take it that Satan is that terribly powerful wicked God that Christians believe is responsible for evil in the world. A bit like Ahriman, the evil Persian God. In fact, just like Ahriman! Yet Christians abhor the Persian religion as being dualist, unlike “monotheistic” Christianity. And what about the Jewish scriptures, which you tell us teaches the same as Christ did? There in Isaiah, the Good God admits he is responsible for evil. The truth is that both religions stem from the Persian one, but in the post Persian age of growing monotheism tried unsuccessfully to eliminate Satan. He is too valuable an excuse for criminality for Christians to let go of.
Genesis is a far older text than anything in the Persian or Gnostic religious traditions.
I have disputed this, so offer me some proof.
I suggest you take some remedial biblical history to improve your own weak understanding.
Spoof, hilarious! Where do you get it all? You are the historian, and supposedly a Christian, but you need more than remedial work. Your root and branch comprehension is that of a bible thumping fundamentalist. One of the first things historians must do is question their sources. You cannot do it. The bible is your God, which is why you keep referring to biblical law.
Like most Gnostics, your virulent hatred of Judaism and biblical law leads you astray because it causes you to reject true apostolic Christianity.
What persuades you that I am a Gnostic and hate Judaism? Your credentials as a historian are in tatters. You haven’t a clue what impartial means. You have your own conclusions ready before you begin. But then, that is typically Christian.
As a part-Levite and part-Jew who was circumcised on the eighth day and who keeps the biblical sabbath laws, food laws, and other laws as part of my Christian beliefs, I have no qualms with being considered a one-house Messianic Jew, though I myself was raised in a Christian background.
Ah, so you are a Jew, and not a Christian at all.
You must consider Christ a Jew rather than a Christian (for the two great commandments of personal morality you claim belief in, “Honor God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your spirit” and “love your neighbor as yourself”, spring directly from the Mosaic law, specifically Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Indeed, but what Jesus did that was novel and crucial was to link the two inseparably. He was asked for the greatest commandment and gave these two! It identifies every human being as meriting the love of God Himself. Christ was a man but was God too. The whole point of Christianity is that people must be treated as if they were God, for inasmuch as Christ is God, God could be any man and every man. Any Christian knows this, especially any Christian who has read his New Testament as far as Matthew 25:31-46. Apparently few have, or have not understood what they read, in two millennia.
Matthew, Acts, and the letters of the New Testament (especially Romans, Hebrews, James, and Revelation) are full of quotations and obvious references to Old Testament law being valid and applicable to Christians.
You are a historian but seem not to know, as I have already said, that there were no Christian scriptures until these people had written them, so all they could cite as scripture were the Jewish scriptures. Moreover, all the first Christians, not just Christ were Jews, so what else would they use other than the Jewish holy books. If Christianity was merely a form of Judaism, then why did the two religions ever split? Why did Jews reject Christ as the messiah, and still do? Christianity began as a Jewish heresy, and those Jews who tried to do as you seem to want to do, keep Jewish while being Christian, were rejected by the gentile Churches as Judaizers. The real Christians were the Ebionites. Perhaps you are trying to be one of these, but they rightly rejected Paul as a scoundrel out for himself.
Paul himself used an obscure Mosaic law about not muzzling oxen while they tread the field twice to justify Christians paying tithes and offerings to support the New Testament ministry.
Thank you. Paul was the first TV evangelist!
When you meet your maker in judgment, you can at least say you were warned.
Warned by a tribe of crooks and perverts who have consistently in the history of Christendom, all bar a few exceptions who did try, practiced the opposite of Christian teaching. Come on! You claim to be a historian. Try reading a little of the vile history of Christianity instead of biblical mythology.
The fundamentalist Christian historian did reply again to the comments I made in the preceding exchange, but ended with a warning that I was treading on his toes, so I began my replies to him on that warning.
In view of your curiously defensive attitude, I had better start at the end of your last reply to me, to give you a chance to delete my further comments before you read them.
I should note that my blog (like the Bible) has moral rules that include no insulting of Christianity or blasphemy. You are therefore in violation of my laws on my realm. Take heed to yourself. If you wish to continue conversing on this blog you will obey my rules. Is that simple enough for you to understand?
It seems to me that obeying your rules means agreeing with your own particular delusions. Anything critical immediately offends your delicate sensitivities. Well, as you say, this is your blog, and you did not even have to publish my initial comments, which you plainly found distasteful, from the tenor of your replies. I have understood throughout that you are the master here, and can delete whatever you do not like. It may be fine for your ego, but it is an admission that you cannot argue your corner. As a Christian apologist, you admit failure. Now is the chance for you to delete the rest of may reply, but, never fear, I shall not waste it.
The historian posted this reply up to this point then terminated the correspondence without posting the rest by adding the following note right here:
Editor: No, forbidding others to speak on a forum or editing/deleting their posts is not a sign that one cannot argue, only that one does not wish to cast pearls before swine, encourage internet trolls (such as you are), or to engage in pointless debate with fools. Nonetheless, since you accurately understood that you were offensive both in the tone and in the content of your messages, why did you not show some wisdom and moderate that tone if you wished to have a genuine discussion? I suppose you’ll have to answer that question for yourself.
Mr Albright persist in his psychological projection to the very end, conscious of offensiveness in my posts, but apparently as polite as saint himself! If an internet troll means arguing with nonsense, then I have no choice but to accept the insult, while wishing there were a lot more of us. Albright added to his editorial the following short “reply”.
Isn’t this much better? Perhaps you should stick to #OWS blogs where people like your nonsense.
So it is plain enough what his politics are. For anyone interested in all this, the points of my reply that he chose to omit continued as follows.
You say I “have no sense of balance” because I do not narrate the good things of Christianity besides the bad. Well I have noted several times that your own attitude comes over as a spoof, because you are utterly blind to your own biases. Here is another instance. If I must balance my selecting the bad aspects of Christianity with the good ones, then why don’t you, as a scholar, have the same duty to balance your rosy tinted presentation of Christianity with the blood and burnt flesh of the real history of it. It would be a violation of your laws, master. But your laws are a reflexion of Christianity as a whole, unbalanced and tendentious. No doubt you see your own role and duty to be to apologize for your beliefs. Well, I see mine as rectifying your unbalanced view. If that makes me “unfit to be a scholar or a gentleman”, then that is your view, but I submit that I am thereby the better Christian, because Christ was here to rectify what He as God perceived had gone wrong in His plan. You are the Caiaphas or the Pontius Pilate. Christ was a reformer, if not indeed a revolutionary, but you cannot abide any contradiction.
You refer to Christians scholars naming Harrison, Kitchen and Albright. The Harrison I know of is not the one you mention, but Kitchen and Albright were so biased and indeed bent that whenever they opine about anything impinging on Christianity or Judaism, they are hardly worth reading. Albright did a lot of damage with his archaeological tinkering over many decades, not least a faulty pottery sequence that misdates everything to suit the mythical chronology of the bible. Kitchen should stick to Egyptology.
There is internal textual evidence that Genesis springs from very old times, including its reference to a river that dried up about 3500 BC and its use of “and these are the generations” to divide its contents into cuneiform tablets kept generation after generation.
Genesis is a collection of stories, from Mesopotamia, as I have already said. Mesopotamia is where writing was developed and in its advanced form of lettering it became cuneiform. You are therefore accepting that much of this book’s content is Sumerian, Akkadian or Babylonian, the culture being essentially unchanging over tens of centuries.
“The evidence for Genesis’ considerable antiquity” you think is conclusive is not even valid. On your reasoning, the Last days of Pompeii must have been written in the first century AD, because it records an event of that time, but we all know it was written in the last century of the second millennium, almost 2000 years later. No historian will simply accept the internal contents of any source as being concrete evidence of its date. All history is falsely dated on that criterion. So, if Genesis is genuinely ancient, as you claim, it is not Jewish, and if it is not genuinely ancient, it could be Jewish, but simply records copies of some ancient tales from elsewhere. In the main we know what they are because the same tales have been found, dated variously because they were narrated repeatedly over many centuries as religious myths, in the valleys of the two rivers where they were set down originally.
Abraham and his family were descended from Mesopotamian society.
Abraham and his family was a story, an allegory in all likelihood of the event called by Jews the “return from exile”. The Nuzi tablets record laws pertaining to the ANE over millennia, so useless for dating any particular event. The Hittite treaties indeed show “the Bible’s covenant formula”, but again you use a treaty format that remained in use for over a thousand years in the ANE to date a particular time in that interval that suits you. Note too, that if the covenant was a treaty format, it was a covenant between two powers on earth, the Jews and the Persians, at the time of Ezra (a Persian) not the imaginary Moses. Does God lack originality that he has to use a treaty formula for his holy covenant?
Again, I am a scholar, and you’re just a troll.
Projecting again, Spoofer!
You are following the wrong scholars when you say that Judaism began after the exile. After all, the return from the exile merely restored the temple that had existed some time before.
Evidence, please? There is none! The so called Second Temple is the first Jewish one, even if a temple preceded it. The Deuteronomic history was written as a foundation history of the Jewish Temple State centered on Jerusalem, called Yehud. Most of it is fiction, the rest is loosely based on Assyrian king lists in the hands of the Persians. Its purpose is plainly to intimidate the Jews. Be obedient and they will multiply and prosper, fail to be obedient and they will be destroyed, and will be lucky if a righteous remnant remains living. That theme is the purpose of the history. There is no evidence for a state of Judah until just before Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians, and incorporated into the empire. Judah remained as a rump puppet state, lasting independently only for a few decades. It was repopulated by colonists from Persia, who came with instructions to start a new religion.
You say I and people like me try to minimize the bible, and you say that because you have coined it, being biblical maximalists. The ones like me whom you call minimalists are actually doing what you are supposed to do wearing your historian’s hat. Find the truth, based on evidence and not merely on the myths in a tendentious ancient religious story book.
Since the Bible extends well into the second and third millennium BC, it is far before the Persian religion.
You have shown that some of the stories in the Genesis go back to ancient Mesopotamia, and I concur with that, but tell me how that is evidence that the bible was written then, any more than Bulwer Lytton was a contemporary of Pliny the Elder.
[The Persian religion] had its Satanic-inspired reformation in the seventh and sixth century BC.
I see you are now bragging that you are a personal friend of Satan, otherwise how would you know that little gem, Mr Historian?
If you wish to be a scholar, seek out scholarship.
Tee hee! Spoofer!
You falsely claim that Paul was influenced by the Gnostics. Far from it. His words were twisted by the gnostics (yourself included) to be hostile to the law (see 2—Peter 3:15-16).
Why do you, a so-called historian, keep citing valueless anonymous works as evidence? Even when you get the citation right, they rarely do what you claim. Where in this citation is the word “Gnostic”? As a fundamentalist, you will imagine that this is Peter the Rock speaking, but no scholar believes it is. You say Paul was a trained Pharisee on his own say so. That is not wise for a historian, especially a Jewish or semi-Jewish one, as modern Pharisees (scholarly rabbis) with few exceptions cannot see any such training in Paul, and his defection into anti-Semitism and self aggrandisement does not say a lot for Pharisees, if this claim is true. God, incidentally, in his earthly incarnation as Christ, seemed to disdain, if not detest, the Pharisees, so it is hard to understand why Christ’s supposed followers should defect into the arms of a supposed Pharisee called Saul of Tarsus. Tarsus was, of course, a cosmopolitan merchant city and a center of pagan religions, like that of Attis, the dying and rising god.
You cite Acts in defence of Paul’s acceptance of the law while being a Christian, yet the instance you cite is one that belies your claim. The Jews from Asia, a place where Paul had been active, so they knew his reputation directly, rioted against him because he had been violating the law. He had to agree to a Nazarite vow to try to appease them, but it didn’t. Elswhere he admits it or is ambiguous, and becomes increasingly anti-Semitic, the first self-hating Jew maybe?
You additionally claim that he believed in numerous nonbiblical scriptures.
No, I made no such explicit claim. Read what I said again. I am referring to scriptures which did not enter the Jewish canon, like the Enoch books, which you note yourself were Gnostic.
Jude himself quoted Gnostic works against the gnostics.
Quite so, and he quoted from Enoch favorably as scripture against those of whom he disapproved.
Now you say the Hebrew scriptures were a fixed canon after “about 440-420 AD”. You mean BC, but you are wrong even so. The Rabbis meeting at Jamnia in the first century AD fixed the canon. Before then, the Torah was definite, of course, the Prophets mostly, and the Writings quite flexibly.
Again, I’m sure your lack of belief in predictive prophecy lead you to reject historians like Joesephus.
I must admit I never knew Josephus was a prophet.
And falsely claim that Daniel was written in the second century BC because it would have been otherwise impossible for your puny and corrupted mind to understand how the various Ptolemeic and Seleucid kings could be written of ahead of time.
You are very good on “puny and corrupted minds”, aren’t you, Nathan? Paragraphs follow in which you preach to someone in your imagination, so mean nothing to me.
Evil exists as a corruption of good. It is not dualist because evil does not have an independent existence except upon a corruption of the original order.
That is what the Persian religion says.
Satan is not the equal of God.
And yet God chooses to let him off the leash. From where most of us stand, unaffected by your ability to persuade yourself of anything at all, Satan looks to be God’s equal. And, as I said, he is a great convenience for Christians who want to plead their failings are not their fault. In any event, he is a supernatural being, like the angels, demons, saints, etc, of which there are millions. So much for the boast of monotheism.
God is responsible for evil, but is not evil Himself.
Is He then perfectly good? Can something evil come out of something supposedly perfectly good?
The Persian religion falsely has an Ahura Mazda in a conflict with an equal evil god, an idea that is blasphemous in biblical religion, where Satan is a rebellious servant whose fate and end are already decided and merely await consummation. Again, your lack of understanding leads you astray.
Curious, I thought I introduced the idea of Persian dualism to this discussion. And, of course, in the interest of balance, the biblical contention that the wicked Satan is a slave under instruction from the Good God is blasphemous in the Persian religion.
I believe that the Bible is the very inspired Word of God, and the only credible source for learning about Him. Clearly you do not. The fact that you speak foolishly about what you do not understand pardons my speaking (as Paul did) as a fool to those who are foolish. But I will not cast my pearls before swine.
According to the Rabbis, even the pearls of God are tarnished in an imperfect world, something you cannot get, and when you speak of my not understanding, be frank, you mean not accepting your entirely subjective and therefore unverifiable interpretations. The bible, even if it had been sent directly from heaven by angelic messenger, would be imperfect once it was opened on this earth. In fact, the inspiration of God is supposed to be via the Holy Ghost acting upon men, and men themselves are imperfect beings, so the Word is not going to be as so remarkably accurate as you think by the time they have pondered and written, then translated. The evidence offered by people not prone to subjectivity, but skilled in history and science, is that biblical history is very flawed indeed. You will stick by your subjective views but history and science have to aim for objectivity to be valuable. That might mean opposing absolutely some false idea. That is what I try to do, and you, if you are a historian, ought to.
Mr Albright had run out of ideas, so refused to reply to the troll!
Doctrines fitted to make the deepest impression upon the mind may remain in it as dead beliefs, never stimulating imagination, feelings, or the understanding.
An example is the way in which the majority of believers hold the doctrines of Christianity—the maxims and precepts in the New Testament—considered sacred, and accepted as laws, by all professing Christians. Yet not one Christian in a thousand guides their personal conduct by reference to those laws. Their standard is that of their nation, their class, or their preferred newspaper. They have a collection of ethical maxims, which they believe to have been uttered by their God incarnate in His infallible wisdom as rules for Christian living, and a set of everyday practices, which meet some of Christ’s maxims, deny some, and otherwise may go some way to meet them or to deny them. They are a compromise between the Christian creed and the interests of worldly life. Christians pay homage to Christ’s standards, but owe their real allegiance to worldly standards.
All Christians profess to believe that…
- the blessed are the poor and humble, and those who are ill-used by the world
- it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven
- they should judge not, lest they be judged
- they should swear not at all
- they should love their neighbor as themselves
- if one take their cloak, they should give him their coat also
- if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have and give it to the poor.
When they say they believe these things, they do believe them. They are not insincere but believe them in the sense that they believe what they have always heard lauded and never discussed, but they do not believe them in the sense of a living belief which regulates conduct. They believe Christian doctrines until they get to the point where they are meant to act upon them. They believe them as worthy doctrines useful to pelt adversaries with, and like to cite them as the reasons for anything people do that they approve of. Then they are Christian things to do. But anyone who reminded them that the maxims require them to do things they never think of doing is considered as expecting Christians to be saints, though they themselves are not. They forget that these are the requirements of God Himself!
Christ’s doctrines have no hold on ordinary believers. They have negligible practical influence on their minds, or on their actions. Christians have an habitual respect for the sound of them, but feel no obligation to God to apply the words to the things signified—nothing that forces their mind to take note of them, and make them personally conform to what are meant to be God’s own teaching, directly from his own incarnated mouth. Whenever conduct is concerned, they look round for for a pastor to assure them they do not have to go far in obeying Christ. A few regular dollars for the church and its minister is enough.
John Stuart Mill wrote most of this 150 years ago in On Liberty. It is even more true in America today.