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Be Particular

This morning, I began teaching a kind of “Apologetics 101” mini-course at church. On the agenda today was the question of how it is possible to believe that Jesus is the way, truth, and life when there are so many other religious options out there. In other words, how do we affirm one perspective as true in a pluralistic context? Perhaps more importantly, how do we do so in an intelligent, curious, and sensitive manner that does not alienate and annoy people unnecessarily? It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking class.

I didn’t use this quote in class today, but I could have because it reflects a few of the important themes we covered. This is from an essay called ” Be Particular” in Miroslav Volf’s Against the Tide:

Religions are embraced and practiced in no other way except in their concreteness. To speak in a Christian voice is neither to give a variation on a theme common to all religions nor to make exclusively Christian claims in distinction from all other religions. It is to give voice to the Christian faith in its concreteness, whether what is said overlaps with, differs from, or contradicts what people speaking in a Jewish or Muslim voice are saying.  Since truth matters, and since a false pluralism of approving pats on the back is cheap and short-lived, we will rejoice over overlaps and engage others over differences and incompatibilities, so as both to learn from and teach others.

58 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ken #

    That is quite different from the way of Josiah (2Kings 23.) What shall we do? Be a nice listener like Volf, or burn their Asherahs like Josiah? What shall we say about 2Kings 23:25?

    February 13, 2011
  2. Paul Johnston #

    I’m the contrarian, again…maybe… I’m not entirely sure…cue Gil’s amusement. 🙂

    I’m confused. Surely a pluralist and his inherent rejection of one single method of interpretation stands in opposition to the Christian faith. Stands in opposition to the claims of, ” I am the way, the truth and the light”… How do we engage such perspectives? Easy. We don’t.

    If we are who we say we are, standing our ground, consistent in word and deed, they’ll come to us. Conjecture and uncertainty make for a pretty discouraging life. They’ll get tired of themselves and what they think they know eventually. We just got to wait them out.

    February 13, 2011
    • Tyler Brown #

      “Surely a pluralist and his inherent rejection of one single method of interpretation stands in opposition to the Christian faith”

      Surely, a single method of interpretation stands in opposition to pluralist thought.
      Not trying advocate the pluralist possession here at all but lessons can be learned in many places. The problem of creating opposing values that are very binary is that it closes off our world and centers us around one very narrow view point and basically says “I cannot learn from you.”

      “How do we engage such perspectives? Easy. We don’t.”

      If a faith or ideology always assumes its correctness, always places itself first it leaves no room to explore, then of course it will never find ‘truths’ in others. An idea can be explored and rejected but to say it shouldn’t be engaged and pondered with is among many things, a very nasty form of pride.

      February 14, 2011
      • Ken #

        I think your critique applies to Volf as much as to Paul’s comment. Apologetics is not an attempt to learn from others the exploratory way you are recommending.

        February 14, 2011
      • Ken #

        Oops, left out a two letter word “in.” Apologetics is not an attempt to learn from others in the exploratory way you are recommending.

        February 14, 2011
      • It all depends on how the word “apologetics” is conceived. It can be conceived as arming oneself for battle, but it need not. It can also be seen as removing unnecessary obstacles to belief and setting one’s views forth in the best light possible.

        February 14, 2011
  3. Paul Johnston #

    “Surely, a single method of interpretation stands in opposition to pluralist thought.”

    Agreed.

    Ok Tyler, how about this then, we engage through silence and a life well lived. Concepts of religious pluralism are the hallmark of the liberal, the academic. Christianity is unitarian. In perhaps pluralisms defining scriptural moment, Pilate asks, “What is truth?”. How does Christ respond? Given what we have already experienced of Christ through scripture what do you think is implicit in His response?

    I don’t assume my expression of faith or understanding of ideology is perfect, far from it. Only Christ is perfect “and Him crucified.”

    What you see as a very nasty form of pride, I see as right understanding. My decisions are made. In time you will make yours.

    You are entitled to your opinion. At this time, that is the only concession to pluralism I am prepared to make.

    February 14, 2011
    • Ken #

      I think that is the only concession Volf is making as well.

      I think Volf listens so that he can come back with a better argument, or just for the sake of politeness. On the other hand, Volf is no Josiah. And Josiah was no apologist. He burned their Asherahs.

      February 14, 2011
      • What are you basing your negative assessment of Volf upon? Why do you think he “listens so that he can come back with a better argument, or just for the sake of politeness?”

        What is the point you are trying to make re: Josiah? Are you advocating his approach for inter-religious relations in our context?

        February 14, 2011
      • Ken #

        Re: “What are you basing your negative assessment of Volf upon?

        I was not attempting to make a negative assessment. I was saying that his view and Paul’s are virtually the same – meaning, they both believe Christianity is the Truth. I think you do too. I did mean to disparage that view.

        Re: “Why do you think he “listens so that he can come back with a better argument, or just for the sake of politeness?”

        I think that is what the paragraph you quoted means.

        I do, however, have what you might call a negative view of apologetics. I see it as a form of aggression, of dishonest communication. (To tell someone else what one believes is not in itself apologetic.) In addition, I think it is useless against the power of pluralism.

        I think of Volf’s apologetics as something like theistic evolution. The latter is a Christian version of science. The former is a Christian version of the respect on which our survival depends in a small pluralistic world and a modern version of the old art that is apologetics.

        Re: Josiah

        Apologetics was not the way of Josiah. I don’t think Volf would approve of Josiah. And yet, of Josiah the Bible says, “he did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” He did not have an apologetic talk with the priests in the high places. He did not try to learn from them. He killed them and defiled their holy places. He would be treated as a war criminal today.

        Does your apologetics include a defense of Josiah? If so, what is the defense?

        February 14, 2011
      • I understand that Josiah was not an apologist. But I’m still not clear why you brought him up in this context. Are you advocating his approach for inter-religious relations in 2011? Are you suggesting that the story of Josiah is somehow normative?

        February 14, 2011
      • Ken #

        No, I don’t. Even if you did not understand why I brought him up, do you really think I have the inclination to kill people in other religions? Surely you realize what an absurd and insulting question you have asked.

        February 14, 2011
      • Of course I realize it is absurd and that you wouldn’t advocate something like this. I only asked because I thought it would highlight how genuinely strange I thought it was that you were comparing the two situations.

        I could equally well protest that it is absurd for you to expect me to justify Josiah’s approach in light of modern sensibilities or to somehow imply that biblical fidelity requires it.

        Having said that, I certainly did not mean to insult, only to get at what was motivating your question. I apologize for offending you.

        February 14, 2011
      • Ken #

        Re: “I could equally well protest that it is absurd for you to expect me to justify Josiah’s approach in light of modern sensibilities”

        I think that we must say something about the difference between Josiah’s approach and ours. I don’t know what to say.

        Re: “or to somehow imply that biblical fidelity requires it.”

        That implication was not intended.

        February 15, 2011
    • Tyler Brown #

      “How does Christ respond? Given what we have already experienced of Christ through scripture what do you think is implicit in His response?”

      I think this passage can be taken many different ways and I must confess my biblical knowledge is not as great as I desire it to be. However, if you could elaborate on what it means to you I might be able to approach the discussion better. Although it may seem appropriate to view the Christian doctrine as being apart of the word of God, to some the word or ‘truth’ of God is merely a part of the Christian doctrine. Pilate’s question then is how Nietzsche chose to interpet it in the Anti-Christ, that it is relative, regardless of Pilate’s belief in Christ.

      “What you see as a very nasty form of pride, I see as right understanding. My decisions are made. In time you will make yours.”

      This is true of all us, as we always view our current stance as some sort of right understanding. Our decisions although made in one moment may change with the next. One does not need to compromise their current belief by looking at another. In fact, looking at another can give new understanding to one’s current beliefs. Maybe you would agree with this? At least in the sense that you are a Catholic commenting on an non-Catholic blog? The plurality of belief, while not as large as some beliefs, is still present and we are all learning in some way from each other.

      @ Ken

      “I think Volf listens so that he can come back with a better argument, or just for the sake of politeness. ”

      There is a very fine line between looking for a better argument and looking to grow and learn and ultimately teach. It is often easy, and we all do it, look to new teachings in order to ensure our own. I guess that is what makes figures like Jesus or Socrates so interesting, they somehow combine they two in a way which many of us cannot achieve so easily.

      February 14, 2011
      • Paul Johnston #

        Hey Tyler, thanks for the response.

        I hear in Christ’s non response to Pilate what has already been affirmed elsewhere in scripture; Jesus is truth. Truth then no longer requires further examination for the purposes of expansion or definition. It no longer needs to be considered from the perspective of it being incomplete. In Christ it is made complete. Truth as I understand it then, is lived. I can only say I have learned it insofar as I have lived it. Pilate’s context for understanding truth was as an abstract thought. Jesus offers truth in His Being, as a way of being. Once I accept that principal, and I have, to engage in a dialogue whereby I would either explicitly or implicitly question that truth is at best unnecessary or at worst a heresy.

        I must admit I remain confused by Christians who think it prudent to doubt their own beloved Christ by continually straining Him through their rigorous intellectual processes. Christ is better experienced, than understood.

        You say…Our decisions although made in one moment may change with the next. I say not this one, not ever.

        PS. I’m not trying to be a jerk! 🙂

        February 15, 2011
  4. I think Tyler’s words about maintaining a posture of openness toward others and being willing to learn from perspectives different from our own are wise, and in no way require a full-blown embrace of pluralism as worldview. I’d like to think that, in a limited way, the conversations that take place on this blog (at their best) are examples that this kind openness is both possible and beneficial. One does not have to be a jerk about one’s convictions to demonstrate that they are sincerely held.

    I think this is part of what Volf is saying too.

    February 14, 2011
    • Ken #

      My impression is that Volf (and you) believes Christianity is the Truth. I don’t have the sense that he is adopting a liberal perspective in which one really does learn about God from other religions, or a pluralistic perspective in which one gains whatever it is that one gains through education.

      My impression is that Tyler is expressing something more like the belief in a university that we gain from learning about various religions, cultures, philosophies, etc. I don’t think Volf is saying that when he uses the word “learn.”

      My own perspective is like that found in a university. The closest religious perspective to that one is found in liberal protestantism – at least where one finds an unapologetic theology there. It is perhaps what you call a full embrace of pluralism. It is certainly fuller than Volf’s.

      February 14, 2011
      • I wouldn’t say Christianity (which version? whose understanding?) is the Truth. I would say that Jesus is the truth.

        I’m still not sure what you are basing your impressions of Miroslav Volf upon. He may or may not be adopting the liberal perspective you prefer, but if his most recent book is any indication, I would say that he is quite open to learning about God from other religions. I’m also not convinced that liberal protestantism is an “unapologetic theology.” There are some views that they are quite obvi0usly eager to “defend” themselves agains or at least define themselves in opposition to.

        February 14, 2011
    • Paul Johnston #

      Volf, thinks I’m a jerk too!! ….That bastard!

      February 15, 2011
  5. Ken #

    Re: “I would say that he is quite open to learning about God from other religions.”

    If he does indeed believe that we can learn about God from other religions, including, for example, Buddhism, then my impression of him has been wrong. That would clearly place him among universalists in liberal theology. Do you share that belief, or are you more like Paul Johnston?

    Re: “I’m also not convinced that liberal protestantism is an “unapologetic theology.” There are some views that they are quite obvi0usly eager to “defend” themselves agains or at least define themselves in opposition to.”

    Certainly I agree. Schleiermacher is a perfect example of an apologetic liberal theology. That is why I qualified my statement in posting above to apply only where the theology is unapologetic.

    My seminary was unapologetic. It offered no courses on the subject. It considered that subject to be an evangelical or fundamentalist concern. On one hand the seminary espoused a full embrace of pluralism, but on the other hand it seemed ready to burn Asherahs and defile the holy places of others, figuratively speaking, at least those of evangelicals, fundamentalists, conservatives and Roman Catholics. The same is true of many of the pastors in the denomination.

    When one regards the Bible as myth, no apologetics is necessary. No rational claim need be made. And the fire in the heart of Josiah can be admired even if not imitated literally.

    February 14, 2011
    • Paul Johnston #

      Is Jesus a myth to you Ken? (I’m not trying to start a shitstorm.)

      February 15, 2011
      • Ken #

        I think of Jesus as being real. I think of the genre of the gospels and the Bible as a whole as myth.

        February 15, 2011
  6. Paul Johnston #

    Do you intend the word myth, to mean, “false story”? Or do you mean it in a more academic sense whereby the truth or falseness of the story is secondary to what the story tells about a people, a culture, an ethos?

    February 15, 2011
    • Ken #

      I mean it in the latter way, although I don’t associate falseness with it at all. To some extent, I also think of myth in the way that Jung described, as connected with archetypes. I think of myth as revelatory.

      February 15, 2011
      • Paul Johnston #

        Not to associate myth with falseness and myth as revelation. Thank you. I learned something valuable this morning. 🙂 Thoughts that might help me with some of my more fundamentalist tendencies.

        I’ve been thinking about what to say about about your earlier proposition. Passion is admirable, at least to me, but easily exploited for evil. I think a lot of the passion expressed in “Kings” is of the evil kind. It seems to continually pose the satanic question, “What will you kill for?” Jesus’ passion is of the other kind, it continually asks us, “What are you prepared to die for?”

        February 15, 2011
      • Ken #

        For me, the Old and New Testaments are a seamless whole. If what Josiah did is evil, then God too is evil because what Josiah did was right in the sight of God and a Biblical illustration of the meaning of loving God with all your heart and soul and might.

        Josiah died for his love of God, slain in the plain of Megiddo.

        February 15, 2011
  7. Paul Johnston #

    Is it not possible for Josiah to be wrong in his understanding? Duped by his social standing and a high view of himself that he construes to be the word of God. Wouldn’t Satan exploit a person in just such a way? Or do I confound you when I ascribe authority and influence to Satan? Maybe you don’t believe in him.

    I’m not sure about the “seamless whole” as a perspective. Life and recollections of it seem more fractured and conflicted than seamless to me. Only God is the seamless whole. Our accounts of Him aren’t, nor are they ever likely to be.

    February 15, 2011
    • Ken #

      I don’t think we can ascribe the writing of the Old Testament to Satan. Not any of it.

      Without the books of Kings, the Old Testament loses its meaning, its unity. 2 Kings ends with the Babylonian exile and that is the event that unites all of the Old Testament and through which messianic hopes were defined by the prophets. It is also likely that the exile was the event that led to the compilation of the Old Testament. Josiah is one of the good kings, one who followed in the ways of David, and Jesus is presented in the New Testament as David’s heir. Jesus and Josiah are from the same tree. In the visions in Revelation and in similar allusions to the end times in the words of Jesus in the gospels, Jesus and Josiah are much alike. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament has no ground. Neither the gospels, the letters of the apostles, nor Acts nor Revelation makes sense without the Old Testament. They are a seamless whole.

      I think you will find that what I have written here is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the teaching of all major streams of Protestantism as well. And, it is the view held at universities too.

      February 15, 2011
      • Paul Johnston #

        I wouldn’t look to dismiss Kings from scripture, nor do I disagree with the unity or interdependence of Old and New Testament. I guess I’m a little suspicious of the adjective, “seamless” but I don’t think it pertinent to press the point.

        The statement that I was meaning to challenge was the one where you say if Josiah is evil than God is evil. Cannot the man Josiah misunderstand what is right in the sight of God? Isn’t the understanding of God as revealed to the Jewish peoples of the Old Testament incomplete? Doesn’t Jesus’ standards of human righteousness and justice exceed those of the prophets before Him?

        Our understanding or at least acceptance of the reality of Satan is essential to our understanding of the “Fall”. Likewise Christ as redeemer is pointless without Satan’s reality. Redemption from what? Christ in the Gospels acknowledges Satan as the ruler of our world. Satan with his offer of the world’s spoils to Christ, assumes such authority. Is it likely then, given these understandings, that Satan would have had no influence over the peoples of the Old testament?

        February 16, 2011
      • Ken #

        The Bible says what did was right, not that he just thought he did what was right.

        February 16, 2011
      • Ken #

        In addition to Josiah, consider Hezekiah. Very much like Josiah. On the other side, consider Manasseh and Amon who ruled between them, and many who ruled before them in Judah and Israel. The ones who did what was right in the sight of God were idol smashers, the ones who did what was evil (according to the Bible) were the ones that we might say were gracious towards those with other gods, unlike Josiah and Hezekiah. If Satan was involved (even though not mentioned,) then it would appear, according to the Bible, that he won over Manasseh, Amon, and others like them, but failed to win over Josiah and Hezekiah.

        February 16, 2011
      • James #

        Re: Scripture and “seamless”. One of the challenges that the Anabaptists put to the Reformers was that they, particularly the Calvinists, read the Bible as if it was a “flat book.” In that critique they claimed that the Reformers failed to properly take into account, the radical change that the New Covenant that Jesus brought added to the Scriptures.
        As I read your comments, Ken, I would be challenge you for reading the Bible as a “flat book” for your use of the Joshua example. There is much to be learned from the Joshua story, but for us, everything in the OT needs to read backwards through the NT. This is just as one reads the first chapter of any work of literature, with the insights that the last chapter gives when studying for the author’s intent.
        For most Christians the author of the Scriptures is God. That is a genuine sticking point of course.

        February 16, 2011
      • Ken #

        Yes, I have read about this Anabaptist distinctive.

        February 16, 2011
      • Tyler Brown #

        James, can reading something as flat always be done? or is this just a method to make some of the harsher passages fit in?

        It just seems a little to tidy.

        February 16, 2011
      • Ken #

        Tyler,

        I think James was criticizing Reformed Protestants of reading the Bible as if it were flat, meaning not through the New Testament, or at least not in the more distinctive way of the Anabaptists. If I understand your question correctly, you meant to ask James about how reading the Bible through the New Testament affects our reading of passages such as the one I mentioned about Josiah.

        I think your question needs a separate thread from this one which was started on Paul’s question about the role of Satan. So, let me start one below.

        February 16, 2011
  8. Paul Johnston #

    Ken, thanks for the exchange if you are to comment again please know that I won’t be able to respond until either very late tonight or tomorrow. Got an afternoon movie date with my daughter Sarah and an evening dinner date with my girlfriend, Tyra…Life is good. Hope all is well with you, my friend.

    February 15, 2011
  9. Ken #

    James,

    A Hindu friend of mine has a religious celebration at his house every year – Puja. He invites all of his friends, not just his Hindu friends. There is a priest there. And a statue of a goddess. Food is offered to the goddess and blessed by her. People dance to the goddess and there is a ceremony. Everyone is invited to dance. And then, every one eats the blessed meal. The promise is a year of blessings – prosperity, health, good fortune. I have participated several times.

    As an Anabaptist is it okay to participate in this? Do Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-7.1 have any bearing on that question for Anabaptists?

    February 16, 2011
    • James #

      A couple of years ago I did a trek in Nepal and visited numerous Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples and participated as a guest in much the same manner you did. Being very respectful of one’s friends and hosts is very important to me. Scripturally my context for this is 1 Cor 8. In our church we have a member who grew up in India in a rural village. His take on the powers at work in that world is very different than what we westerners find comfortable. Had he been there I am certain he would not have participated. He is also an Anabaptist. Paul is a westerner, like us. I think that is also reflected in 1 Cor 8.
      Being an Anabaptist, that’s how I responded to that situation. Hope that answers your question.

      February 16, 2011
      • Ken #

        It does, thank you.

        February 16, 2011
  10. Ken #

    Above, Tyler asked James:

    “James, can reading something as flat always be done? or is this just a method to make some of the harsher passages fit in?

    It just seems a little to tidy.”

    I think what Tyler is noting is that to many observers, in and out of the church, Christians implausibly maintain that God is good even though there are passages in the Bible in which God sounds evil, or at least evil according to contemporary moral standards, and even though the world God made and sustains contains so much evil, or at least so much suffering.

    Among the ways that Christianity has dealt with this internally is to emphasize some writings over others, and to say that what may appear to be evil to us is only apparently so and that God is using such things for the sake of good in the larger picture or in the long run. When all else fails, some people just say it is a mystery.

    Perhaps James can elaborate on how this problem has been addressed by Anabaptists.

    Even though from the Anabaptist perspective I can see James’ point about the relatively “flat” readings of the New and Old Testaments, what I have observed throughout Christianity is a similar tendency to that of the Anabaptists. It is quite common to see Jesus as representing a different ethic from prophets who shaped the Old Testament. That view is disputed by many Jews. In addition, it is disputed on literary and historical bases by many of us who have studied the Bible in universities, rather than on theological bases. But such things are considered a matter of confession or faith, of theology, within Christianity, and so it is not unusual to find differences among Christians and the churches are rightfully concerned with theology more than with literary and historical analysis.

    But you are right – there is a problem here that no one has ever resolved, at least not in any universal way.

    February 16, 2011
    • James #

      Sorry for missing the question in the thread, Tyler and thanks Ken for bringing it forward.
      It is not designed to make harsher passages fit in since there are plenty of harsh and difficult passages in Jesus’ teachings and the rest of the NT. It is however designed to reflect the distinction that Jesus brought, and because of which He was rejected by the Jewish religious authorities of His time.
      Clearly challenging people as having a “flat book” view of the Bible can sound pejorative but I think it is actually the right label.
      The Gospel has both old and new in it- but the “flat book” reading, from our perspective creates a “seamlessness” where it appears there is a very visible “seam.” This “seam” divides off several OT institutions from the NT. It is an unambiguous seam.
      Among the institutions that a “flat book” hermeneutic brings forward are circumcision, the priesthood, the temple, the Mosaic Law etc. That is not to say there is no continuity but it is not simplistic. As I said earlier it is the continuity and distinction that mark off the various acts in a play, for example. There are supposed to be things that don’t make sense until one gets to the end. The challenge of not reading the Bible as a “flat book” from this perspective does however still presume the Bible as a single text. Clearly not everyone agrees with this- but it is the traditional Anabaptist and I believe historic Christian perspective.

      The primary critiques the Anabaptists levelled at the Reformers were- the use of violence by Kingdom people and infant baptism [the Reformers version of OT circumcision]. They agreed with the Reformers that the Catholic church should not be equated with Jesus’ Church but criticized the Reformers for keeping the historic church’s linkages to the state, which they felt is not part of the NT. The OT does directly equate the Kingdom of God with the political state of Israel but there is no equivalent to Israel- there is no Christian nation, in an Anabaptist theology.

      February 16, 2011
      • Tyler Brown #

        Thank you both for the response. Very informative and will give me much to think about!

        February 17, 2011
  11. Paul Johnston #

    Ken, you seem to be saying to me that at no point can the Jews be errant in their understanding of God’s will because Scripture makes no allowance for that possibility. If I am understanding that correctly that seems to be an awfully literal interpretation from someone who regards the Bible as myth.

    Cannot sin be solely the consequence of a corrupting spirit in Satan and an all to corruptible Man. God’s only part is perfect judgment administered as perfect love. He bore and continues to bare our iniquities so that we might be redeemed.

    February 16, 2011
    • Ken #

      I think I am saying something different. That Josiah did what was right in the sight of God and that others like Manasseh, for example, did what was evil reflect a major theme in the Old Testament that remains critical in the New Testament. The Bible says that God sent the Assyrians to conquer Israel and Babylonians to conquer Judah for their long standing apostasies and idolatries. The Bible presents Josiah and Hezekiah as exceptions, as Kings who did what was right.

      Think, if you will of Solomon. Wise and rich, and built the Temple. And yet, he married foreign women who taught him their religious ways. He assimilated those religions. For that, God took all of Israel away from his descendants except for Judah.

      As one who reads the Bible as myth, I don’t take any of this literally. Assyria merely conquered Israel, and let Judah survive. And Babylon conquered Judah. It was a very minor and insignificant event in the history of the world. Matter in motion. Nothing more. The Bible mythologizes this event. It explains it in a way that says that God is real and good. It avoids the conclusion that these events have suggested to others – God is not real and not good, and life has no meaning that we do not ourselves construct.

      Similarly, Pilate killed Jesus. A first century Jewish sect mythologized this event. He died for our sins they said. And God raised him back to life, just as he promised through prophets to raise up Israel and Jerusalem again. In mythology Jesus is the first born of the new Israel, and its king.

      I think you are hearing something in my words that I am not saying and are arguing with what you are hearing. I think we should let this one go.

      February 17, 2011
      • James #

        It seems that your re-writing of the Scriptural story takes great liberties with the evidence you have at your disposal, Ken. Given the fragmentary evidence from the ancient world, drawing the conclusion that something is or is not “a very minor and insignificant event in the history of the world” and that the Scriptural account is “mythical” while your other evidence is not- is not something anyone should grant you, IMO.
        The view that Scripture is “myth” is as loaded a presupposition as the view that God is its author and that it is Truth. I think that the common ground that those who come together from these 2 vastly different presuppositions, can have, is the reading of the Bible as literature and treating it with the respect and deference that any great literature deserves. To do this, the opposed presuppositions need to be left at the door.

        February 17, 2011
      • LarryS #

        Ken wrote: “Similarly, Pilate killed Jesus. A first century Jewish sect mythologized this event. He died for our sins they said. And God raised him back to life, just as he promised through prophets to raise up Israel and Jerusalem again. In mythology Jesus is the first born of the new Israel, and its king.”

        Ken, I wonder why people in the 1st Century would be willing to put their lives/livihood on the line and be willing for a mythologized event?

        February 17, 2011
      • Ken #

        Larry,

        They believed Jesus rose from the dead and was coming back soon.

        February 17, 2011
      • Larry S #

        and why do you think they believed that?

        February 17, 2011
      • Ken #

        Some saw him. Others believed without seeing, just like today.

        February 17, 2011
      • Paul Johnston #

        Fair enough, Ken. Your understanding of the historical accounts, such as they are, are clearly well beyond my understanding.For me to try to pursue them would only be embarrassing to us both. I do disagree with your last statement though. I don’t think I’m hearing you wholly inaccurately, nor do I think my contention is entirely of my imagination.

        If scripture is myth then I think it’s study enables one to have some understanding of the prevailing ancient cultures and their sentiments. What I can’t understand is how it allows us draw specific conclusions about God, for good or for bad. How does myth translate into something empirical?

        I think it would be better for you to speak of the mythical Josiah, his mythical culture and what that says about their mythical God.

        I think myth is for the skeptic, what faith is for the believer.

        February 17, 2011
      • Ken #

        Paul,

        I don’t want to disagree.

        My wife says I should not use the word myth. She says I should say I believe the Bible is revelatory because that is what it is to me.

        Your faith is a great treasure.

        February 17, 2011
      • Larry S #

        Ken wrote: Similarly, Pilate killed Jesus. A first century Jewish sect mythologized this event. He died for our sins they said. And God raised him back to life, just as he promised through prophets to raise up Israel and Jerusalem again. In mythology Jesus is the first born of the new Israel, and its king.”

        Ken also wrote: “Some saw him. Others believed without seeing, just like today.”

        What did the one who “saw him” see? Did they see the bodily resurrected Jesus? Please help me understand the apparent disconnect between your two quotes.

        February 17, 2011
      • Ken #

        Larry,

        They saw the body of Christ, risen from the dead, the first born of the new creation. What a beautiful sight then and now.

        I think it is my use of the word myth to describe the Bible that causes confusion. Please allow me to use the word revelation instead.

        At this point I am leaving this discussion as it stands and moving on with Ryan to his next posting. It is a great closure to this one.

        February 18, 2011
      • Larry S #

        Ken thanks for your response and I completely respect your right to leave this thread – and to switch to the word mythology to revelation – Jesus to Christ.

        Perhaps this is food for thought. As I understand the Jewish worldview of of the 1st Century (recognizing that within the 1st century jewish world there is not a monolithic or universal way of viewing the world). But it seems that the notion of a ‘spiritual’ resurrection was foriegn to how most saw reality. That is an anachronistic treatment of the material.

        I’m heavily influenced by the works of NT Wright who in some circles is regarded as a rigid fundamentalist and in others as a liberal – go figure.

        February 18, 2011
      • Ken #

        That is my understanding too.

        February 18, 2011
  12. Paul Johnston #

    Thinking about the original subject matter of religious pluralism some more, I guess I would say that some variance on non essentials is if nothing else, an obvious reality. As long as we have an over arching set of essential principals our lives and our commission are not compromised. Sounds like some kind of big tent Catholicism to me….surprise surprise.

    February 17, 2011
  13. Paul Johnston #

    Ken, thank you for your generous responses. Thank you for the statement, “I don’t want to disagree”. You are a gentleman. You have a heart that loves. Thank you also for reminding me, “where my treasure is.”

    Know that what you write here, on Ryan’s blog is inspiration to me. You help build up my faith.

    February 20, 2011

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