Thursday, May 24, 2012

Open Questions for Christians of Any Stripe

Reconciling  faith with what one believes personally can be a challenge if one is new to faith. For one thing, my mind is ill-conditioned to accept blindly things which can be given no evidence beyond a reasoned argument. Indeed, while I have come to accept room for divinity in my world view, and even (with suspension of various usual requirements) accepted that, in want of historical accuracy, the bible has allegorical-spiritual accuracy, I still have problems with various things taught in Christian churches and households of most any denomination. I always seek to understand that which I do not rather than dismiss it as fallacious or flawed. This is a founding tenant of science and to be unscientific in the age of the atom, instantaneous global telecommunication, and orbital flight.

In the spirit of understanding, and of dispelling the idea of denominational validity, I leave these questions as open ones for Christians of any stripe, be they orthodox or heterodox, catholic or protestant, layman or cleric. Just as one does not need to be a physicist to understand the basics of physics, one should not need to be a theologian to study the basics of theology. While I rarely do this, and indeed abhor the practice of chain-letters, I ask that those who see this post and answer it at least consider anyone they know who might wish to weigh in.

1. Why do we obey only certain injunctions from the Old Testament, particularly regarding homosexuality?

The most-used verse to defend views against homosexuality comes from Leviticus, written to the levites, which is the source in large part of the old Jewish laws. A common counterpoint used to disagree with this injunction has always been to ask the person holding the believe whether or not they carry out any other act thus forbidden, most commonly the eating of shellfish.

The appropriate response, as I understand it, is that Christ has created a new covenant with man (through his salvation of mankind) and that the old laws no longer apply to the gentiles. Indeed, as Christians, one could argue we have been set free of them. In all four gospels, I cannot find one word spoken through Christ which suggests that homosexuality remains among the list of offences counted as sins. Indeed, such an injunction almost seems to violate the Golden Rule.

Why did Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, then decide to keep this specific injunction? Remember that paul was not given the keys to the kingdom, nor is he drawing from any evident word of Christ. Was this a personal preference? Bearing that possibility in mind, the above question practically begs an answer.

2. How do we justify our artificial separation?
I hear a lot of talk among Catholics about apostolic succession; and indeed it was mainly that concept that drew me to the church above all others. The idea that a line could form, unbroken, through the consecration of priests right up on through the ages and back to the apostles, if certainly a powerful sign. However, it has failed to quell a larger problem that I am only just coming to understand.

Christ essentially declared that there should be one church. Now, various denominations will make claims to being the only true church and Roman Catholicism is certainly very good at that. However, the word catholic is usually interpreted as "universal". Indeed, Christ did not seem to intend a universal authority but merely that "where one or two gather in My name, so am I there among them". With this in mind it is difficult to view the seperation of the denominations as anything other than artificial seperations, formed in the midst of disputes, and counter to the spirit of Christian Unity. This is an issue of particular importance, all things considered. Why is it only now, in the age long past that of the Enlightenment, that the churches are only just starting to try and rectify this, and why are the protestant churches being largely ignored in ecumenalism, and only the Catholics and the Orthodox trying to re-united.

I don't want to sound overly new-age, but it seems to me that this should be done in full rather than as a half-measure.

3. How do we justify a lack of biblical literalism?

This actually seems to be the easiest for me. I am willing to accept that a work can be divinely inspired and still errant. After all, if God had gifted ancient man with the knowledge of the true topography of the universe, he might have caused quite a few to go (or at least seem) mad. We deal now routinely with numbers for which the ancient world had no concept. With distances thought impossible. With continents unrealized. A round earth never would have occurred to Ezekiel, and I seriously doubt that if you asked the authors of Genesis to count from one to a million, never mind a billion, or to somehow understand the concept of natural selection, they would actually come to terms with it.

I am willing to accept allegorical and metephorical interpretations. After all, Christ did so love his parables, and the knowledge which must be sought through difficulty is the easiest to retain (though hardest, obviously, to obtain).

Still, there are denominations, and even camps in Catholicism, that would call me a heretic for holding the view that the bible could possibly be wrong in any way. Well, to be fair, these days they'd say I wasn't really Christian, but they mean heretic. Can a defence be made, on biblical grounds alone, for the genesis account quite simply being, well, wrong?

4. Why do many denominations insist on political homogeneity?
Many denominations seem to insist that you "ain't right if you ain't Right-wing", to put words into various mouths. Indeed, I seem to be a rarity among both North American Christians and converts from atheism to Christianity in being that I'm a centrist - or, perhaps more accurately, socially left and economically right.

While I don't expect each and every one of you do be a right-wing figure, nor do I encourage it, or discourage it, I am curious. I can accept a certain amount of vote-your-morals. After all, if they really are your morals, you should be willing to stand up to them.

What I don't get is churches (and this is largely true among southern US catholics and protestants across that country) insisting on intervening on non-moralistic matters in politics - most notably in the global warming "debate", which isn't so much debate as one side providing scientific evidence and the other side plugging their ears. What authority are they on non-moralistic matters? Taking, as issues, subjects like nuclear disarmament, stem cell research, and abortion are all well and understandable. Meddling in economics and earth sciences, or calling for military expansion, are not.

Indeed, I've actually heard pastors decry socialism from the pulpit, though I thank some Grace of God that mine has never done such a thing. As you might have read before, I find it difficult to reconcile the idea that a proper Christian could be anti-socialist.

At any rate, these four questions ought to suit us for now. I thank in advance everyone that responds, though I'll likely re-respond, knowing me.


  1. One SHOULD question what they believe to ensure that they are travelling the path they have chosen. To me the Bible is somewhat like a jig saw puzzle and as you search you find out how the pieces fit together. The main foundation of Biblical beliefs lies in faith ie. the belief that God exists even though we have not seen Him but we know He is.

  2. Hello, Zachary. I am your occasional visitor from New Zealand. (I forget how I got here, but I bookmarked you because a.) my father used to be an auditor and b.) because I had a slight interest in parallels between the Native American issues you were posting about, and similar issues here.

    The website you need for your list of questions is

    Best read with a tab open to Wiki and another to Catholic Encyclopaedia. Try starting with the lead articles. There's a good index page, too. It will certainly challenge you, and may change your life.

    Best wishes

    1. Hey!

      Thanks for the link, and the occasional comments. You'll be happy to know that I've got more planned in the future on the Native American thing

      I'll be sure to give those articles a good read.

  3. 1. Those who see themselves of a superior virtue are often selectively blind if only to better themselves.

    2. We cannot give self-awareness, life, meaning or justification to something that is artificial.

    3. Wrong, or poorly interpreted?

    4. Those who consider the possibility that they are on a god-like level of authority assume a god-like stance. But the true likeness of any such hypocrite is far less than holy and uglier than sin.

    1. 1. This is a natural facet of human nature.

      2. We can, however, justify our actions and their products. How do we justify the schisms?

      3. Literal interpretation is wrong, would be my point.

      4. I suppose.

    2. -- from a christian of some sort of stripe.