Religionless Christianity and the Myth of Neutrality

I will write in generalities here, not because I am afraid to enter the fray, and not because there are not a plethora of examples of the sort of thing I am referring to, but because those who have entered the fray tend to lose sight of the generalities here expressed, and because there are a plethora of examples of the sort of thing I am referring to. There is some fear that the grid I am supplying here may be misused and abused, but I hope rather to clarify those areas where it is being misused and abused through highlighting several basic principles. I leave the application(s) to the reader.

Nobody can be neutral. Christians should not be neutral. One is either for Christ or against him. Many Christians pay lip service to this no-neutrality principle but fail to apply it in everything they do. One of the most obvious places we see a rejection of the no-neutrality principle is the realm of noble human causes.

If Christ is Lord of all – and he is – then any noble human cause is a noble human cause because Christ says it is a noble human cause. So, for example, the pursuit of justice is a noble human cause.

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Psychological Exegesis (Guest Post by cco3)

Jordan B. Peterson has been gaining popularity, due to his tenacity in social and political arenas.  However, this popularity has spilled into his other pursuits as well. For example, his lecture series on Genesis is recorded on YouTube as having nearly 750k views.  The first in the set of lectures has nearly 2m views, and those numbers don’t even count podcast listeners like me.  That’s quite a show of interest on a topic that otherwise garners little interest from the public. I’ve only listened to the first lecture, so I can’t comment on how Peterson actually goes about handling the text, but he sets out his approach fairly clearly in his introduction.

In response to this, I’ve found Manfred Oeming’s comments on psychological exegesis to be helpful.  Beyond its theoretical origins in Freud and Jung, he identifies the method as being pioneered by O. Pfister in 1944 and popularized by E. Drewermann in 1990 (p. 85-86).  His final conclusions on the matter provide a succinct analysis.

Manfred Oeming, Contemporary Biblical Hermeneutics: An Introduction, 2006, 88-89:

The great strength of this approach lies in its ability to create the impression that biblical texts deal directly with the problem of readers; suddenly, the Bible no longer speaks of something distant, but of our deep initimate[sic] conflicts. This closeness is supported by de-emphasizing reason in favour of emotion. ‘Female’ emotions and the non-rational world of dreams are the key to an adequate understanding of the Bible.

Such an emphasis on dreams and emotions can only be a correction of a one-sided rationalistic approach to the Bible but never a complete substitution for sober historical-critical work.  Under the banner of dream interpretation, the Bible can be subject to general allegorising as the key hermeneutical concept. Must we truly assume the biblical authors were always concerned with the same pattern, i.e. moving out of emotional poverty and debilitating dependence? This reduction of the Bible and other literature to one basic pattern is highly questionable.  Liberation from fear thus becomes the dominant theme in ancient Egyptian songs for the sun-god, the fairytales of the Grimm brothers, the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, as well as every biblical narrative.  The emphasis on the liberating God condemns ex cathedra any other biblical concept of God, such as God the law-giver, the judge, the avenger of the oppressed, the jealous Lord.  The Bible is turned into a book of happiness and good feelings. This goes hand in hand with latent antijudaistic clichés. Fearful depiction of a violent, destructive God is found only in the Old Testament.  Jesus is stylised as the great contrast who frees us from this heritage. In fact, many New Testament images are harsher and more threatening that[sic] those in the Old Testament. The elimination of fear is a basic desire common to all human beings.  But one of the central themes of the New Testament in all of its primary witnesses is the rejection of a large part of humanity: ‘You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow?’ (Luke 19:22). Psychological exegesis takes the Bible seriously only as a book of peace according to the needs of psychological therapy.  This blind spot basically destroys any positive contribution psychological exegesis may make towards understanding the Bible.


Other Arguments

Now the only argument for an absolute God that holds water is a transcendental argument. A deductive argument as such leads only from one spot in the universe to another spot in the universe. So also an inductive argument as such can never lead beyond the universe. In either case there is no more than an infinite regression. In both cases it is possible for the smart little girl to ask, “If God made the universe, who made God?” and no answer is forthcoming. This answer is, for instance, a favorite reply of the atheist debater, Clarence Darrow. But if it be said to such opponents of Christianity that, unless there were an absolute God their own questions and doubts would have no meaning at all, there is no argument in return. There lie the issues. It is the firm conviction of every epistemologically self-conscious Christian that no human being can utter a single syllable, whether in negation or in affirmation, unless it were for God’s existence. Thus the transcendental argument seeks to discover what sort of foundations the house of human knowledge must have, in order to be what it is.

– Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, 11

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Modest is Hottest: A Brief Response to Bálint Békefi’s “Van Til versus Stroud: Is the Transcendental Argument for Christian Theism Viable?”

Stroud’s Objection Restated

Bálint Békefi proposes the following transcendental argument (Békefi, B. Van Til versus Stroud: “Is the Transcendental Argument for Christian Theism Viable?” TheoLogica. Published Online First: September 26, 2017):

(S1) If the negation of p is self-defeating, then p is true.
(S2) The negation of p is self-defeating.
(S3) Therefore, p is true.
(Békefi 9)

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Public Statement on James R. White

The contributors to Choosing Hats have unanimously chosen to comment upon the recent controversy surrounding Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries.

White has faced extreme criticism related to his apologetics ministry to Muslims. Since Choosing Hats embraces what is known as the doctrine of Total Depravity, we also believe that no man, including White, is above correction.

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Review: Beginning with God: A Basic Introduction to the Christian Faith by James W. Sire

(Thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a review copy of this book!)

Sire, James W. Beginning with God: A Basic Introduction to the Christian Faith. Downersgrove, IL: Intervarsity, 2017. 189 pp. $8.57.

“In explaining the Christian faith, we can begin almost anywhere, for Christianity relates to the whole of life – the outer world of natural science, the inner world of the human psyche, society at large, and individuals in particular. In short, we could begin with God, with people, or with the universe.” (15)

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A Friendly Response to Jordan Standridge’s “A platform for porn and a dialogue with the devil”

Over at The Cripplegate there is a post by Jordan Standridge titled, “A platform for porn and a dialogue with the devil.” Jordan starts off with a story that sheds a little light on that title.

A few years ago my wife and I were invited to what was being called “The Great Porn Debate.” A Christian man who was anti-porn was going around the country with a famous porn actor and they were debating the question: Is porn harmful or helpful? They were debating this on college campuses, but the meeting we were invited to was in a church—a large church in San Diego where thousands of Christians would be exposed to a man who was going to try to convince the crowd that porn can be good for you and your marriage. Needless to say, we declined — a decision for which I was subject to ridicule. I was called a Pharisee, and also I was mocked for being “afraid” to hear inappropriate language.

If the post ended here, it probably would not generate much discussion. But the post does not end here. There is more, and the title gives us a hint of what is to come. Obviously, nobody wants to give porn a “platform,” and we know a “dialogue with the devil” is not exactly kid friendly or mother approved, so whatever Jordan is getting ready to describe must be really, really bad, right?

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No Excuse for God

In
the
beginning,
GOD.

Four words into God’s living and active autobiography and, boom, there He is. Front and center. No beating around the bush. After all, from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36), so it should be no surprise that the Bible begins with Him.

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