Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eight Issues That Do NOT Make or Break Christianity

The following is a guest post by C. Michael Patton of Credo House Ministries. (Hear his interview with Apologetics 315 here; transcript here.) Find out more about Credo House resources here.

I realize that posts such as these have the potential to create quite a bit of heat and get me in a lot of trouble. As well, I don’t really want to be seen as one who is always trying to unsettle things. I like to be settled, and in a very pastoral way, I like to settle others. However, in Christianity, both for our personal faith and our public witness, we need to speak with the emphasis necessary to carry our faith truly. It is my argument that often – far too often – conservative Christians become identified with issues that, while important, do not make or break our faith. This creates extremely volatile situations (from a human perspective) as believers’ faith ends up having a foundation which consists of one of these non-foundational issues. When and if these issues are significantly challenged, our faith becomes unstable. I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued. That is why I write this post. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope this discussion will cause you to think deeply about what issues create the bedrock of our (and your) faith.

Here is a list of what I believe to be eight issues that do not make or break our faith:

1. Young Earth Creationism
There are many people who spend an enormous amount of money holding seminars, building museums, and creating curricula attempting to educate people on the importance and evidence for a six-thousand (give or take) year-old earth. There is certainly nothing wrong (in my opinion) with holding to and defending such a view. The problem comes when those who hold to this view teach that to deny a literal six-day creation is to deny the Gospel (or close to it). There is simply no sustainable reason to believe that one’s interpretation about the early chapters of Genesis determines his or her status before God.

2. The authorship of the Pastoral Epistles
This is an interesting one. I suppose that the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) are among the most controversial books in the Bible with respect to their authorship. For various reasons, many do not believe that Paul wrote these letters. While I do believe a sustained argument can and should be made for the inclusion of these in the canon, whether or not Paul wrote these letters does not affect the truthfulness of the Christian faith. While these letters are extremely valuable for issues of personal integrity and ecclesiology, the essence of the Christian faith remains intact without them. This goes for 2 Peter as well – by far the most contested book in the New Testament. William Barclay, author of the Daily Bible Study Series (as far as I know, still the best selling commentary set of all time), did not accept Petrine authorship of Second Peter. While I disagree (like Calvin, I believe that Peter was behind the letter, though he did not directly write it) this did not in any way disqualify Barclay from being a Christian and a committed servant of God.

3. The inerrancy of Scripture
This is a tough one. It is not tough because I have my doubts about it. It is tough because I know how important the doctrine of inerrancy is to so many of my friends and heroes of the faith. Many people believe that a denial of inerrancy (the belief that the Bible is without any errors in the original manuscripts – not the translations!) amounts to a denial of the faith. However, this is nearly impossible to defend. While I believe in and strongly defend the doctrine of inerrancy, a denial of this doctrine is not a test of one’s status before God. I might even go further and say that even if the Bible does have some historical or scientific inaccuracies, this does not mean that Christianity is false. Christianity is based on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, not whether or not its chroniclers messed up on a detail or two. All biographers and writers of history err, but this does not mean that we discount their value or discredit their entire testimony. The classic illustration of this is the sinking of the Titanic. When we look to the historical records, we find that the eyewitnesses who survived that night were divided as to how the Titanic went down. Half said it broke in two and went down, while the other half said it went down intact. Someone is wrong. However, no historian would say that the Titanic must not have gone down at all simply because there is a discrepancy in the details.

Ironically, this is exactly what happens to many who study the Bible. Charles Darwin tells about how his faith was initially dislodged due to discrepancies in the Scriptures. Bart Ehrman goes in the same direction. But, like with the Titanic, just because one may be convinced that one author disagrees with another about some details, this does not mean that both authors are wrong or that the main events (Christ’s birth, teaching, sinless life, death on a cross, resurrection, etc.) did not happen. This is about the last thing that the historian would suppose. Therefore, while I believe in the doctrine of inerrancy, it does not make or break Christianity.

4. Whether the flood covered entire earth
This is not unlike the previous entry about Young Earth creationism. There is quite a bit of debate about the “global” flood described in Genesis 6. Some believe that the entire earth was covered with water. Others believe it was a local flood, isolated in Mesopotamia. Some even believe that the whole event did not really take place and is not meant to be taken literally. These believe that the story itself is a polemic against other gods and other flood stories, essentially saying in a parabolic way that God is in charge, not your other gods. Whichever view one takes, this does not affect Christianity. If we were somehow able to prove that a flood was or was not global, this neither adds to nor takes away from the truthfulness of Christianity.

5. The character witness of Christians
I have spoken about this before, but it is important to realize that Christianity is not dependent on the character witness of its followers. Many claim to reject Christianity because of the character of the Christians they know. Whether it is the Crusades, the Inquisition, evil Popes, or the hypocrisy of people in their local church, building a foundation of faith upon the character witness of sinners is not only a mistake, but leads to an ill-founded faith. Christianity’s truthfulness has nothing to do with how Christians act. It is about the historical event of the resurrection of Christ. Ghandi’s statement, “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian” is simply not true. One does not become a Christian by trusting in the character of Christians; one becomes a Christian by trusting in Christ. Of course, a Christian’s witness (i.e., gaining an audience) is tied to their character, but Christ’s reality is not dependent on our witness.

6. The inspiration of Scripture
This is connected to inerrancy, but takes it a step further just for the sake of getting me in hotter water! My statement is this: the Bible does not have to be inspired for Christianity to be true. Before you jump all over me, think of it this way: Did God have to give us the Bible in order to be God? Of course not. If he never gave us any written testimony of himself, he would still be God. There was nothing that obligated God to this form of revelation (or any form at all!). Christ could have come and lived a perfect life, gained representation, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and never had it recorded in the Scriptures. How would we know about the Gospel? I don’t know. Maybe angels, maybe word of mouth, maybe direct revelation, or maybe not at all. The point is that God did not have to inspire any books in order for him to be who he is and do what he did. The Bible does not make Christianity true; the Bible simply records true Christianity through inspired words and thoughts.

7. The unity of Christianity
Many people stress quite a bit about the unity of the church. While I understand why this is important, the unity of the church is not a test to the truthfulness of the cross. There are thousands of denominations and many traditions within the Christian faith. It is important to note that all of orthodox Christianity has always been united on many things. There is a certain perspicuity (clarity) to the Scripture which has brought about this universal unity. We call this the regula fide or the canon veritas. It is simply an expression of orthodox belief, arguing that there are certain beliefs shared by all Christians, everywhere, at every point in history. There are too many things to list, but in essence we all agree on the person and work of Christ. But there are also many things that Christians disagree about. Historically, many of these things have been called the adiaphora or “things indifferent.” Many act as if this disunity in the church somehow warrants disbelief in Christ. However, like the others, the unity of the church is not the foundation of the Church. The cross and the resurrection are.

8. The theory of evolution
Unfortunately, many Christians believe that the theory of evolution is somehow an anti-Christian theory invented by Satan to destroy Christianity. Many believe that if evolution is true, Christianity is not. This is not true. While I don’t accept the theory of evolution, there is no reason that God could not have used some sort of evolutionary process to create the world. Yes, it will take some reworking of one’s interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, but, as many good Christians have demonstrated, it is very possible to be a Christian evolutionist. Evolution is not a make or break issue for Christianity.
(I had two more that may have gotten me burned at the stake. Luckily I have run past my per-post character limit!)

I hope you understand the spirit of this post. In the end, my argument is that our focus should be on the person and work of Christ. In essence, if the resurrection of Christ happened, Christianity is true. If it did not, Christianity is not true. This is why I call myself a “resurrection apologist.” When I am defending my faith to myself and others, ninety-nine percent of the time, this is where I camp. It is not that these other issues are not important or worthy of debate and discussion. It is not as if these other issues don’t have implications. However, none of them make or break our faith. Therefore, we should adjust our thinking and our witness accordingly.

I am comforted to know that I am not really saying something too original here. Paul seems to whistle the same tune.

1 Cor. 15:1
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

This is a guest post by C. Michael Patton of Credo House Ministries. (Hear his interview with Apologetics 315 heretranscript here.) Find out more about Credo House resources here.

26 comments :

Ex N1hilo said...

Has God indeed said?

MaryLou said...

This is a thought-provoking article indeed!

It seems to me that, if the Bible is not inspired and inerrant, then we would have no basis on which to do "resurrection apologetics". We wouldn't be able to trust it any more than we could trust the Koran or the Book of Mormon.

Incidentally, heresies, apostasies and cults all begin with a denial of the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. Once a person or group has declared it flawed, their slide away from God and his truth begins.

The fact that God would still exist whether he gave us the Bible or not seems irrelevant to me. He DID give us the Bible, but if he didn't give it to us perfectly and purely, then what good is it?

jeremy said...

Although I liked the overall message, I feel at every instance the author is covering himself and not letting the statements he is making be defended solely by his reasoning. Each point is followed by a sort of "while I believe inerrancy/inspiration/(not)evolution"...he seems too concerned the audience is going to toss him out b/c his reasoning enough isn't strong. It comes across as wimpy vs bold and assertive.

janitorialmusings said...

The list certainly reflects the author's bias.

Concerning 1. It could just as easily be said that there are many people who spend an enormous amount of money holding seminars, blogging, writing books, and creating curricula attempting to educate people on the importance and evidence for a 4.5 billion(give or take) year old earth. And they sound an alarmist tone about how if the church doesn't embrace the truths of an old earth and evolution it will disappear. For them, old earth creationism and theistic evolution might as well be the gospel.

But I think the author misses the point as to what Young Earth Creationists are saying, like any Theistic Evolutionist would probably immediately want to point out that my contrast misses the point of what they are saying. This also points out a deeper problem in the author's perception of the things like 3, 4, 6 and 8.

No Young Earth Creationist thinks that denying young earth creationism is denying the gospel. That's just painting an extremist caricature. Of course, Patton slyly leaves himself an out with the qualification "(or close to it)". But what in the world does "or close to it" mean?

In any sense in which a person holding to 1 or 3, 4, 6, or 8 might think the issue "breaks" Christianity would be through *deeper* issues that are often reflected in 1, 3, 4, 6, or 8 (and maybe others). So, for instance, someone might argue that OEC doesn't deny the gospel per se. But some might hold to OEC for certain reasons and it is these reasons that undermine the gospel. Or some might arrive at OEC through certain methods and it is these methods that undermine the Word of God.

I think in some of the other points we could also see that deeper issues are at play here and that Patton hasn't correctly portrayed why or in what way someone might think an issue breaks Christianity. For instance, sure the fact of the resurrection could be true whether the Bible is inspired or not. But again, what is leading a person to conclude that the Bible isn't inspired? Is a person denying inspiration because we now are enlightened enough to know homosexual love and marriage is virtuous? It seems like a reasonable case could be made that this reflects gospel-destroying roots. And who does Michael Patton know that is arguing that the Bible makes Christianity true?

It does no good to take these issues and ask in the abstract if the gospel message *could be* true had God done such and such and then conclude that anywhere you fall on the issue is a-okay. When we start thinking like that, like the way Patton seems to be thinking, we can deny almost anything and not "break" Christianity. So did God have to physically raise Jesus from the dead in order to cleanse us from sin? Of course not. So a non-physical resurrection of Jesus doesn't break Christianity by Patton's method of reasoning.

Many people would find it much easier to be Christian if they could just cut out or deny those difficult parts. And so a post like this with reasoning like this becomes the free pass they needed to jettison whatever distasteful or difficult issue they were dealing with. One of the problems apologists face in our current apologetics renaissance is making apologetics something less defending the Christian worldview... such as making Christianity (or something close to it ;) ) easier to swallow.

Sivraj Jarvis said...

My main issues are with the inerrancy/inspiration blurbs.

~ I think a good case can be made that Europe is where it is today on account of people like Strauss, Reimarus and so on giving the lie to the Bible.

I suspect that not to long after a person or people group or continent accepts a low view of the Bible, we will find a low view of the Person of Christ following.

In Christ,
~ Raj

dgfisch said...

The whole tone of this post is based on the fear of the "audience." How shall I appear to my hearers. Paul spoke of the "petran scandalan" the rock of offense, in Romans 9: 33. There will forever be a level of heavy baggage that some feel Christianity will have to unload.

It gets down to the offense of the Gospel of Christ crucified. Patton did say: (I had two more that may have gotten me burned at the stake. Luckily I have run past my per-post character limit!) I hope vicarious atonement wasn't one of them!

Patton's vision of Christianity-Light worries me. Jesus didn't speak of conversion of masses, but of the few who come to faith (Mt. 7: 13; Mt 13: 15, 16). Tailoring the doctrines to broaden the appeal is bad faith.


LittleGoose said...

If this article was titled "eight issues that do not make or break your personal salvation" I would have no problem with it. But for Christianity? I can't help but think the inspiration of the Bible is too integral. Christianity as a religion is based on the Bible. If the Bible is not inspired then we could still argue for historical miracles (ie the resurrection), but wouldn't that be it (no repenting, no turning to God)? I mean Christianity does not only entail the belief that Jesus rose from the dead, but the collected teachings of the Bible. But wouldn't a rejection of inspiration put a giant cloud of doubt over everything in the Bible and thus pull the rug under Christianity itself? I guess my question is what is Christianity without an inspired source of authority?

I personally think that we can argue from the resurrection to an inspired Bible to a call for repentance. But inspiration would still be necessary. Just sharing my thoughts

Anonymous said...

I do appreciate what the author is trying to convey but I have problems with number 5, the character of Christians. Because God sends out via the great commission to make disciples of all nations, what our character is like DOES play a huge role. To say something along the lines that the character of the witness isn't such an important issue, well, it tells me that this person hasn't been on the front lines of evangelism for very long.

Craig said...

Entirely subjective worthless article.

Anonymous said...

Entirely subjective worthless article.

Sivraj Jarvis said...

"... But do this with gentleness and respect ..." ~ 1 Peter 3:15

CarinB said...

I also support the main point that the author made - that your stance on most of these issues doesn't give someone with another point of view the right to label you a false Christian. What makes me uncomfortable is the inclusion of the inspiration of Scripture in this list. Or perhaps it's his reason for it that makes me uncomfortable

"God didn't need it" does away with EVERY aspect of Christianity - God didn't need to create us, send Jesus, accept Jesus' sacrifice, resurrect Jesus, he didn't NEED to do any of those things. But He DID and WHAT He did is important because He did it. If the Bible teaches that it's inspired by God and it's NOT, then how do we trust what the Bible teaches about Jesus?

The author calls himself a resurrection apologist, but his argument against inspiration can be used to wipe the resurrection off the table too. And where does that leave us?

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is missing the main point of the article, which is:
1. If one of these issues, like YEC for example, are proven false, it does not break Christianity. You don't have to stop believing in Christ.
2. One does not necessarily have to accept all of these ideas in order to become a Christian. One's belief in evolution or an old earth should not make one think that they, therefore, are not open to becoming a Christian.

janitorialmusings said...

Anonymous,

1. Suppose Scripture teaches YEC. In that case, if YEC is proven false then this is very significant. In some sense, it breaks core doctrines of Christianity. Key doctrines have to be reworked as well as hermeuntical principles. But then it's not clear that Christians aren't just engaged in desperate acts of belief preservation.

2. While that may be technically true, it opens up other major issues that should be addressed. For instance, technically, a man can have a relationship with his wife even while committing adultery. So should we go around telling people who are tempted with adultery that "Hey you know this doesn't necessarily break your marriage!"

In that case, aren't we being lousy comforters?

ianhutch said...

Excellent article &, sadly, one which produced the above responses. As Paul said, 'I am determined to know nothing except Christ & Him crucified.' If your faith relies on every single word in the (probably KJV) Bible being scientifically accurate, & that there is no human element in the Scriptures & its point of view of events, I really do think you have fallen into the trap of the Pharisees. I've seen too many people in my 50+ years as a Christian who have fallen away when one of these non-essentials collapsed to start classifying believers into categories of 'saved', 'possibly saved' & 'not saved'. I've seen so many venomous comments on line about those who were unhappy about the Atonement being penal substitution—a doctrine that was formulated by Anselm in 1098 or The Rapture—an interpretation of 2 verses which emerged in 1838 or so. Does Father God REALLY insist on these man-made limits on His love & mercy? The message of the Bible is NO!!!

Anonymous said...

Michael Patton speaks out of hand and I will respond to this post in three segments, this being the first. While the tenor of Patton’s post is filled with reconciliatory overtones, it must be acknowledged that we cannot have unity at all costs, which is what it appears he implies. By discarding certain tenants of the faith as “non-foundational issues” he belies the real extent of the damage that is caused by taking this position.

His reasoning for calling these issues “non-foundational” is his desire not to have people walk away from the faith; he expresses concern that by discussing these issues, creating (“extremely volatile situations”), an unstable faith will be created. If people walk away from the faith after strenuous discussion does this not give the person that “walked away” reason to ask why they were so easily carried away from the faith? (This was the same issue the Galatians faced.)

If volatile situations come about by discussing non-foundational issues, then we must be sure to determine what issues are non-negotiable foundational and which issues are negotiable. (There are three of the 8 issues that I will not discuss because they are non-foundational: these are #1, #2, and #4. I know that YEC feel that #1 is foundational, but there are no verses that require this for salvation and it does not impact the same, there are alternatives to YEC that do not deny perspicuity, inerrancy, and inspiration of Scripture. )

He concludes his intro by hoping that the reader, albeit the one who disagrees with him, will examine the foundations, “(bedrock), of our (and your) faith.” In this very statement he has actually done what he hopes will not happen if we hold opposing views in the following 8 issues. The very thing he is trying to avoid is the very thing he has caused.

There is one implication that is a sub-current of this introduction, which is that faith is subjective. Please note the following: “we need to speak with the emphasis necessary to carry our faith truly” [i.e. our faith]; “make or break our faith” [again “our faith”]; “which consist on one of these non-foundational issues” [his opinion, subjective at best.]; “whether you agree with me or not” [the subjective nature of every person’s opinion]; “the bedrock of our (and your) faith” [ again the subjective nature of those reading]. All I will say is that there is that “faith” that is subjective, what we each have and exercise on a daily basis. Yet even this subjective faith must be subjected to The Faith.

Then there is The Faith which was once and for all delivered unto the saints. Jud 1:3 “…it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Faith here “not in the original sense of trust, but rather of the thing believed.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures-RWP) The Faith is a concrete set of ideals that must be held in order to function within the chosen paradigm, in this case Orthodox, Biblical, Christianity. In the phrase “earnestly contend for the faith”, it is only here, in the N.T., that the work “contend” appears. An additional (epi) striving, to the already strong agōnizesthai has been added to the word we translate as “contend.” (RWP)

At stake here is The Faith! It is not about individual subjectivism, but the concrete nature of the Faith, which our faith is founded on. John Warwick Montgomery has argued in “Faith Founded on Fact”, and elsewhere, that the Faith, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and the other aspects of our belief system are clearly founded on the Bible. He strongly argues for its authenticity as historical documents, its validity in recording events, and its importance in the life of believers. We may desire not to be confrontational, this is a matter of style; we may want to develop dialog with each other so as not to create volatile situations, this is a matter of technique, but never should we do this at the expense of The Faith.

To be continued on next post.

Reggie

Tania said...

Thanks so much Michael for this brilliantly insightful article. You address so many issues that we wrestle with and bring light to the angst. For all those people who became Christians before the Canon was finalised, for all those people who came to know Jesus before they could read the Bible in their own tongue (or ever will), for all those literature students who lose their faith when they hear about older flood stories, for all those scientists who are forced to chose between geological evidence and the wonders of God's creation, for all those careful readers who struggle with glaring discrepancies in the biblical text, THANK YOU!!!

janitorialmusings said...

ianhutch,

You said: "Excellent article &, sadly, one which produced the above responses. ... If your faith relies on every single word in the (probably KJV) Bible being scientifically accurate, & that there is no human element in the Scriptures & its point of view of events, I really do think you have fallen into the trap of the Pharisees."

That seems like a knee-jerk reaction. Instead of actually dealing with the criticisms of Patton's article, you demonize those who disagree with Patton and speculate about positions they hold to that has nothing to do with what they actually said.

You said: "As Paul said, 'I am determined to know nothing except Christ & Him crucified.'"

But odd that you ignore the fact that I and others pointed out that if we apply C. Michael Patton's methodology consistently then we can jettison the resurrection too!

Another one of the problems facing our current apologetic renaissance is lay apologists who can do little more than "amen" their celebrity apologist. They exercise critical thinking when it comes to the atheist, but exercise no discernment when it comes to their own apologist or to their own already established views.

janitorialmusings said...

Tania,

You said: "Thanks so much Michael for this brilliantly insightful article."

Did you notice that in Patton's he says "In essence, if the resurrection of Christ happened, Christianity is true. If it did not, Christianity is not true." And did you notice in his article how he uses a methodology of reasoning that undercuts this position?

I'm sure Patton is a smart guy, but undercutting your own position in your own article doesn't strike me as brilliantly insightful.

"Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." - Paul Simon

P.S. Also, I'm not sure why you're thanking literature students who lose their faith when they hear about older flood stories or scientists who are forced to choose between geological evidence and the wonders of God's creation.

R Lidster said...

janitorialmusings: I don't think that was Tania's intent; the "for" construction she uses is polysemous and it's far more likely to read that as a synonym for "on behalf of." I'd urge caution in feigning being confused because of her potentially (slightly) ambiguous wordings. Resolution of ambiguity and interpretation of authorial intent during reading are active processes important in this dialogue and, a propos, crucial to the author's discussion of the Bible.

I personally object to different parts of Patton's post. I was stunned that he would state that "There is certainly nothing wrong (in my opinion) with holding to and defending [a 6,000-year-old Earth]." I don't take issue with the desire to defend it per se, but "holding to" YEC after being exposed to the arguments in the face of reality is not only intellectually unsound on an individual level, it undermines the attempts to defend the reasonableness of Christianity as a whole. Every night, when we see the light of stars that are millions of light-years away from Earth, do we have to assume that God created the light in transit? Do we have to assume that stalagmites in the thousands of caves around the world that would take tens of thousands of years to form were actually created mostly intact? Are we to assume that the entire geologic column is some cosmic prank? Are we to assume that cave paintings and even some cuneiform written records are more than twice as old as the Earth itself? Saying that there is "nothing wrong" with that worldview is a bizarre, loopy suggestion.

In point 4, the author states, "If we were somehow able to prove that a flood was or was not global..." as if the Flood's existence were a timeless intractable question. Few respectable scientists would use the word "prove," but positing a global flood makes concrete, testable, falsifiable claims that have in fact been falsified. Under a global flood model, layers of mud with fossils, then a layer of salt, then other mud with different fossils would have had to deposit themselves in neatly stratified, compacted layers *while underwater* over the course of a year. Frankly, that position is untenable without a stupefying amount of denial. The question of whether or not YEC is central to Christianity is reasonable, sure, but "holding to" YEC in the face of reality is not.

As someone who's tried to explain YEC (often by showing them materials from YEC sources and this very site) to international students from Japan and Saudi Arabia, and even other Christians from Korea, Brazil, and Angola, I can assure you that doing so can make American apologists appear dangerously insane. If belief in YEC and a Global Flood are central to Christianity, then Christians have much bigger problems than the authorship of Timothy to deal with.

janitorialmusings said...

R Lidster,

Thanks for the comments. Since this doesn't seem like the appropriate forum to go deeper into YEC issues I will respond to you on my blog and, if you want, you can interact more there. Or just ignore me.

Anonymous said...

janitorialmusings,

1. Yes, if YEC is what the Bible teaches (which I no longer believe), and assuming Biblical inspiration and inerrancy (which I believe), and if YEC is proven false, then Christianity is debunked. Perhaps I should have been more clear. What I should have said is that in the case of certain beliefs like YEC, they are so far from being THEE certain truth of the Bible and core of Christianity, that if they are proven false, then it shouldn't shake our faith.

2. I see your point, but I don't think that is a fair analogy. Committing adultery will MUCH more than likely break your marriage, but believing in evolution or an old earth won't break your Christianity. But this would better apply to point #1, because that related to one falling from the faith (from the marriage), but #2 is about coming TO the faith. You shouldn't tell someone that they have to become a YEC when evangelizing or talking to a new Christian. Such things aren't foundational and are highly debated to even be taught in the Bible. You don't have to compromise Biblical authority at all.

janitorialmusings said...

Anonymous,

You said: "Committing adultery will MUCH more than likely break your marriage, but believing in evolution or an old earth won't break your Christianity."

I think that depends on the reasons why one is holding to an old earth and/or evolution. Like I said, no one is saying that evolution per se breaks Christianity in the way Patton implies. Rather, it's the deeper issues. It may be that some persons holding to evolution or an old earth are guilty of intellectual or spiritual adultery in a sense. At least that's the argument I think YEC want to make. Now you may disagree with them, but then one should engage the arguments. I realize none have been set forth here. I'm not saying we should set them forth here, rather, I was objecting to Patton's simplistic representation and methodology.

You said: "But this would better apply to point #1, because that related to one falling from the faith (from the marriage), but #2 is about coming TO the faith."

Well in that case it's easy enough to modify the analogy: suppose someone is wanting to get married to a woman but isn't sure whether or not he can stay sexually faithful to her throughout there marriage. Then should our advice be "Don't worry, adultery doesn't *necessarily* end your marriage."

You said: "You shouldn't tell someone that they have to become a YEC when evangelizing or talking to a new Christian."

I can't make much sense of this. Suppose the Bible teaches 'x', where 'x' is any proposition of Scripture. Should we *not* tell someone that they have to embrace 'x' when evangelizing or talking to a new Christian?

Steve Hays also wrote a response to Patton's article on Triablogue. There, he makes an excellent point.

Steve Hays says, "For some reason, Michael has usurped the right to tell people that they don’t have to believe everything God says. Frankly, that’s blasphemous. God is telling us we ought to believe something, while Michael is saying, 'You don’t really have to believe what God tells you to believe.'


Imagine if Michael accompanied the prophet Jeremiah. God commands Jeremiah to deliver an oracle of judgment. As Jeremiah is speaking, Michael Patton stands behind Jeremiah, giving thumbs up or thumbs down depending on whether or not the oracle is essential to Christianity, or essential to saving faith.

[...]

People have an absolute obligation to believe whatever God reveals. It’s not Michael’s place to make faith easier for them by waiving their duty to believe each and everything God has taught us. Michael doesn’t have the authority to do that. If God wanted to make it easier for some people to believe, God didn’t have to reveal those hard truths in the first place. That is God’s call, not Michael’s."

See the post titled "A La Carte Christianity"

Isn't Steve correct? If the Bible teaches something, x, and the Bible is God's word, then what right do we have to tell someone that they don't have to believe it? At that point, we've lost the proper focus of apologetics and evangelism. I wrote a post dealing with similar issues a few weeks ago in relation to some of William Lane Craig's sketchy advice.

You say: "Such things aren't foundational and are highly debated to even be taught in the Bible."

Well anything in the Bible is highly debated if your sample size is large enough.

Anonymous said...

Tania, you are either lazy, incompetent, indifferent, or insincere. This runs a far cry from brilliant. His "arguments" are very weak and reveal a lack of understanding of the real issues.

For you, Jesus is a childhood fable to be rejected upon the discovery that people are sinning like crazy and apparently with no ill effects. But things look much different older than they do when young.

Anonymous said...

You make assumptions that are unwarranted to reach your conclusions. For one, there is nothing wrong with thinking God did make light in transit and stalagmites quickly, since being God is worthless unless you act like God. Does He owe someone an apology?
But secondly, you make the larger assumption that the universe has always been the same. We have no idea of what goes on at the creative moment and subsequently. Einstein talks of curved and warped space and time and he was only a pre-schooler on the subject. If the universe had different or altered physical laws in operation at any time during pre-history, we wouldn't know about it and things would appear as they do today; that is, as if it's always been like this. Things may not be as they appear to be. I've seen every man I know (and woman) change their minds but I've not seen God change his. Since I only have one life (that I know of) I'm not going to be its survival on man's opinion but upon something that appears to be more reliable.

R Lidster said...

You're right that an omnipotent God could, in principle, create in-tact stalagmites, and he could create the light from stars before (or distanced apart but at the same time as) creating the stars themselves. He could in principle alter cosmological constants arbitrarily at different times in history. He could create a heterogeneous geologic column in a year during a flood, and create written records that date to the time of that flood showing uninterrupted, flood-less activity in Egypt, China, and India. He could in principle create old-looking and young-looking mountains, and cave paintings, and striations, and radiometric variation, and the innumerable other things that are not consistent with the Bible's literal account of history (if we interpret Scripture as an account of history and not a set of moral messages). And then he could have inspired the writing of the Bible such that it comes in conflict with these things for some mysterious purpose. If that doesn't seem wildly fantastical to you--if you really can't see what would be wrong with that kind of viewpoint--then I'm not sure what else there is to say.

Exegesis also assumes our use of reason. I should hope that it isn't abandoned at will. Godspeed.

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