The motive behind this series is to keep Christians in check; in other words, to keep an eye on them. What I find is that often Christians claim things that are false, misrepresent facts, or they tend to claim too much in hope of evidentially grounding the Christian faith. As a Christian myself I will be analyzing what I find. Also bear in mind that I am a convinced Christian myself because I think there is good evidence for  God’s existence and  Jesus’ deity and resurrection; so skeptics of Christianity (and fellow believers) should keep that in mind when reading this content.
See Article 2 in the Series – Answering a Christian’s Defense of Biblical Genocide.
See Article 4 in the Series – to come.
As mentioned in the brief description above, I strongly affirm, from a theological rationalist perspective, that there is persuasive evidence for both the deity and resurrection of the historical Jesus. In this way I agree with Christians who he view Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross as absolutely necessary, and so on. But I want to make an observation that isn’t noted too often; I also want to be really honest in this effort. I am not writing this from an intentional antagonistic viewpoint but rather from reflection.
I feel Christians sweep many of Jesus’ characteristics under the carpet. In other words, they often only promote a “half Jesus,” so to speak. This is not the only time, however, that Christians do this. Many do so in very general terms when it comes to the Bible itself. How often have we heard pastors preach from Leviticus or Numbers (with the exception of Steve Anderson who tends to take a little bit too much enjoyment in some of the brutal Old Testament passages)? Not too often, which is quite understandable given the all the moral dilemmas that it brings up, and the inconsistent way that God is presented within them (one moment God is all loving, unconditionally so, and the next he commands genocide, or so the biblical authors allege). But when pastors do touch on some of these verses it is usually only the nice stuff. Things like (to borrow from one sermon I heard at a local church) how God loved his children so much that he took to saving them from captivity in Egypt as well as provided for them in their tumultuous journey through the desert, but nothing on God’s command to Joshua to go from village to village in order to slaughter everything and let nothing that breathes remain alive. We won’t hear the latter in church services. I understand why this is so. We want to make the biblical message attractive, and we want to win over souls for Christ, after all, it is true and our salvation hinges on how we respond to it; but we know that moral atrocities could very well hamper the process. But at some stage we’ve got to face it. I fully admit that Christian thinkers and apologists have been busy at work combing through these passages in order to understand them and explain them, but we can’t only rely on them. They are far too few in ratio to the believing population. Rather, my personal opinion is that pastors, and church leaders, have to dedicate sermons or at least put far more emphasis on hosting symposiums and meetings with congregants concerning these tough biblical dilemmas. Doing so might help in nurturing a congregation that actually knows more than just half a Bible. In fact, I’ve observed recent efforts placed on science and its relation to belief in God. Local churches have hosted visitors, and so on, but we’ve really got to do far more than just that. We need such occasions, no doubt, but science and God is but only one topic; there are others that don’t make it into sermons.
But what about Jesus? I think Jesus was a remarkable man with brilliant teachings that we should emulate but, again, we [often] don’t really get a full picture. We get the sufficient idea, namely, his radical ministry of miracles and revelation, his message of salvation, the historical event of his remarkable resurrection, his acceptance and love, non-violence and emphasis on forgiveness, and so on. But there is little emphasis on the fact that Jesus called people fools, foxes, dogs, brood of vipers and so on. Of that list I recall one sermon in which “brook of vipers” was mentioned in relation to hypocrisy and so forth. This is why I found it important to include a recent article on Shocking Things Jesus Said. At least it might inform fellow Christians of some of the things that Jesus said that don’t tend to make it into the common sermon. So next time an honest inquirer asks a Christian about something relating to Jesus, which might be taken to be “shocking,” he won’t be taken by surprise.
But, as clearly is the case, a great number of Christians prove to be very uncritical and have little time, beyond Sunday mornings or evenings, for putting effort into their faith, especially intellectually. Many don’t even know what apologetics is, they often are unable to even name one apologist, or Christian philosopher or scientist, and so on. They know none of the arguments, and they know nothing of science or philosophy and its relation to faith (this is why we got Christians naively calling certain scientific theories, “just theories,” and so on). How can such a Christian expect to sit at the table of opposing worldviews, a cutthroat table might I add (after all, you got the Muslim on your left telling you that Allah is God, and you have the atheist on the right telling you how deluded you and religious people are, or don’t forget the New Ager and his promoting of some undefined cosmic consciousness and how Jesus was just some wise guy etc.), with only the knowledge of some Pauline theology from the book of Romans or Ephesians. In truth, it astounds me just how so many Christians can live out such lives without wishing to even know what they believe is true. We don’t ignorantly just believe in a claim because someone makes it; rather we want to determine whether or not there are good reasons for believing in that claim. Why exempt religious belief, specifically Christianity, from this process? Why preach on the street, or raise your hands in church in worship, or support Christian projects and initiatives, if you don’t even know whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead? Christianity is a claim, and if it is a false claim, then it is a massive hoax; alternatively, if it is true then it means everything.
Christianity itself is very fortunately grounded in good evidence, but the intellectual capacity of Christians, their willingness to engage in anything related to reasons for belief, and so on, is a major cause for concern. After all, we can’t have 2.2 billion Christians in the world and only a couple of thousand dedicated apologists; especially in a contemporary society in which conflict between worldviews is ever so prevalent, and especially within a society that is ever increasingly post-Christian. If you are a Christian parent, and you have reared your child up within a Christian home but you do not know why evidentially you are a Christian, don’t expect your child to still be a believer when he hits 13.