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Thoughts

Posted: January 13, 2018 in Health, Uncategorized
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We’ve entered into a new year, thats the good thing, we are able to share in another year. The question remains, how will it differ from last year? For me I can say “thinking.” Their is a quote I’ve heard and use, the origin is sketchy “It’s good to read but better to think.” Without your pride judging it, it makes sense. The year in review is helping me to focus better for 2018. I have better clarity for projects I’m currently working on. My thoughts and intentions for those projects detoured quit a bit. That’s for the reason I mentioned earlier; “thinking!” As I look at certain subjects with plenty of source material, even if it differs from my (POV) it helps with balance and better clarity.

Health is always a concern as it should be for everyone. I say this as a diabetic, it happened late in life, 37 to be exact, type 1. I’m 48 as of now, it’s something that you think about most of the day, everyday. On the bright side, it keeps you focused on health and mortality. Health is wealth, we have to first do it for ourselves and secondly for others; in my case my wife and kids.

I enjoy working out 4 to 5 days a week mixing cardio/kettle bell/heavy weights. Most is for health but lets be honest, some vanity. Even with working out it has to be combined with good eating habits. One can’t cancel out the other, it has to work in unison to enjoy the overall benefit.

If you’ve made resolutions for the new year, thats a good thing. Especially in the area of fitness, start in small increments, don’t start to lofty, thats the failure zone. The best advise I can give is. It has to make sense too you, only when you have it etched in your mind will it be relevant. It has to be a part of your process, only then will you be successful. It doesn’t matter what self help speech you listen too or book you read.

I know talking about health is a bummer, it is necessary too talk about. While we don’t the sugar industry and big pharma are talking about it, in terms we wouldn’t like very much. I’ve heard because of poor health the current generation will live less, that is startling when you think about it, in the age of technology. The sugar industry says it is fat thats killing you but the real culprit is SUGAR.

Lets look forward too the new year and all its going to yield. Hopefully my pen game will improve. I enjoy talking about a wide range of topics, while religion is the main focus. For those that care, I’m currently reading “Emancipation of a Black Atheist” by D.K. Evans, PhD. Maybe we will talk about it. One other thing I will share is the Podcast is coming soon, still trying to find a name for it that works with the various topics. My motto is “I hope you leave smarter than you came.” Happy New Year

Written by John the Revelator

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Cave paintings show instances of human spirtuality. (Patrick Aventurier/SIPA)

Rachel Newcomb is an anthropologist and the Diane and Michael Maher Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Rollins College. She is the author of “Everyday Life in Global Morocco.”

 

Author Reza Aslan’s “God: A Human History” is less a biography of God than a study of why and how humans tend to anthropomorphize the divine. As societies developed from small groups of hunter-gatherers to large, specialized populations supported by agriculture, ideas about God changed as well. At the core of all belief systems, Aslan observes a tendency to seek a “humanized God,” which has been “embedded in our consciousness the moment the idea of God first occurred to us.” Studies have shown that although most followers of monotheistic faiths believe God is an abstract force, they will nevertheless describe God “as though they were talking about someone they might have met on the street.” What we say about God, in other words, says more about us than about what God might actually be.

The basic religious impulse, Aslan suggests, is an evolutionary response to environmental stimuli. People tend to attribute agency to natural events (think lightning emanating from the fingertips of a gray-bearded man in the clouds), and our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have imagined that faces seen in trees meant that trees possessed spirits. Cave paintings found throughout the world, some dating as far back as 41,000 years, represent the earliest evidence of human spirituality and demonstrate our ancestors’ interdependent relationship with nature. The Trois-Frères caves of southwest France, for example, feature elaborate paintings of floating animals, devoid of hunting imagery, with a mystical creature at their center: part human, part stag and part owl. Aslan believes that these images do not represent actual animals but rather are “symbols meant to represent ‘the other world’ — the world beyond the material realm.”

As people formed agricultural societies, they began to see humans as dominating nature, and they envisioned gods who did likewise. Perhaps, Aslan argues, agriculture was invented as a response to religion. The elaborate stone temple of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey dates to the end of the last ice age, about 13,000 years ago, yet humans had not begun living settled agricultural lifestyles at this point, leading Aslan to conclude that agriculture was invented to support organized religion, not the other way around. A tremendous workforce would have been needed to build such massive structures, and those workers had to be fed, causing people to turn away from the slender offerings of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and toward the production of crops that could sustain larger populations.

“God,” by Reza Aslan (Random House)

With settled societies came writing, and cultures such as the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks left more detailed records of their beliefs. “The act of writing about the gods,” Aslan says, “of being forced to describe in words what the gods are like, not only transformed how we envision the gods; it made conscious and explicit our unconscious and implicit desire to make the gods in our own image.” As people increasingly attempted to harness the forces of nature, the deities themselves became powerful and temperamental humanlike gods who vied with each other for control over their environment.

At some point, the gods became so humanized that the ancient Greeks began to question their legitimacy. Did gods, as depicted in Greek statuary, truly look like people? Creeping doubts led to a different proposition: maybe the gods were not many but one. Aslan lists the philosophers, pharaohs and prophets who first proposed this radical concept; however, none of these early monotheists found a willing audience since “one god conflicts with our universal compulsion to humanize the divine.” For instance, how could one god be capable of both good and evil? People were, however, beginning to accept the idea of one more-powerful god above a panoply of lesser gods, which mirrored the political hierarchies they experienced in society. “As more authority is vested in a single individual on earth, more authority is given to a single god in heaven,” Aslan notes.

It took a radical event for true monotheism to take root: the expulsion of the Jewish people from Babylon. Historical and linguistic evidence indicates that in the ancient land of Canaan, people worshiped two different supreme gods, El and Yahweh, as well as other, lesser deities. Early Israelites, including the prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would have followed El. But the burning bush that the prophet Moses encountered in the desert is the first appearance of Yahweh, the god followed by the tribe of the Midianites, whose territory was believed to be south of Canaan (Moses had married into a Midianite family). As ancient Israel united into a nation, Yahweh prevailed, yet a defeat at the hands of the Babylonians led many Israelites to conclude that the Babylonian god, Marduk, was stronger. A small group of exiles continued to profess their faith in Yahweh, believing that “perhaps Yahweh was punishing the Israelites for believing in Marduk in the first place.” At this moment, Aslan says, we see “the first expressions of unambiguous monotheism in the entire Bible.” As Yahweh proclaims, “I am the first and last; besides me there are no gods.” To move from the idea of different deities responsible for good and evil to “a single vengeful god full of contradictions” required a great cognitive leap.

Although God was now without peers, many found Him to be too wrathful. When Jesus appeared, Aslan argues, He embodied those human characteristics of the divine that people still needed, while at the same time preaching the message that God was loving and forgiving. At first, not everyone agreed that Jesus Himself was divine, and it was not until 325 at the Council of Nicea, convened by the Roman emperor Constantine, that God and Jesus were declared to be “of one substance.”

Enter Islam, which arose in the 7th century “out of the deserts of Arabia to confront Christianity’s conception of the humanized God.” Yet even as Islam denounced the idea of the trinity and insisted on a God with no image, substance or form, there are still parts of the Koran that are “replete with anthropomorphic descriptions of God.” And some Muslims still had questions: How could God be one with creation yet separate from it? Such theological conundrums led to the rise of Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam that concerns itself with a direct and personal experience of the divine. It is this belief system that Aslan finds most sympathetic. “God is everything that exists,” he writes.

Aslan devotes significant time to the “big three” monotheistic religions but does not explain why other cultures have been able to follow religious systems, such as Buddhism, without a deity at their center. If the human tendency is to want a humanlike God, what explains the success of these other religions? Nonetheless, Aslan’s fluid writing style makes the reader inclined to drop any lingering questions and accept his assertions on faith alone. His use of scholarly sources from fields ranging from archaeology to neuroscience will introduce many readers to information that otherwise would be relatively inaccessible, and he combines these disparate sources in compelling ways. Whatever God may be, at the very least Aslan shows us the long history of how humans have made Him in our image, and not vice versa.

 By Rachel Newcomb
Posted by John the Revelator

DALE B. MARTIN is a well-established New Testament scholar, a Professor of Religious Studies at Yale, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also, by his own confession, a post-modernist, a Marxist (to the extent of accepting Marx’s diagnosis of capitalism and of its pervasive influence), an “orthodox” Episco­palian Christian (greatly cherishing the Book of Common Prayer) — and gay.

These affiliations make him profoundly sceptical of the value of a purely historical-critical approach to the study of scripture (particul­arly the New Testament, his special­ism). “Biblical truths” cannot be derived from historical study alone: the gains from this depend on inter­pretation, which is necessarily influenced by other factors; indeed, any “biblical theology” would be moribund if it were not constantly engaged with the realities of a “post-modern” approach to Christian sources.

Accordingly, his book does not offer a “biblical theology” in the sense of exploring what the writers may originally have “meant” — which, in any case, is hardly recover­able apart from a consider­able degree of interpretation. Instead, he arranges his book in chapters dealing with traditional categories of systematic theology: God, Christ, Spirit, Church, etc. Under these headings, he seeks to demonstrate how the insights gained from mod­ern (in­­­deed post-modern) critical analysis may feed into the faith and practice of a contemporary Chris­tian.

He denies any need to harmonise the data or seek for a consistent “theology” in the New Testament writings; sometimes, indeed, their very variety and inconsistency can inspire creative modern theology. All depends on the assumptions that the critic brings to bear on the data, and these are legitimately influenced by a Christian lifestyle sensitive to the concerns of a person such as he declares himself to be.

This approach might seem to lay the critic open to the charge of considerable subjectivity: how is one interpretation to be judged more legitimate than another? What is the control that can be exercised to exclude heterodox or even heretical interpretations? If there is no at­­tempt to reconcile apparently con­tradictory propositions, how do we judge between them?

Here the author acknowledges his debt to modern theories of know­ledge, particularly to Wittgenstein as mediated to him through the recent work of Dominican scholars such as Fergus Kerr. These expon­ents of philosophical theology have the support of the Eastern apo­­phatic tradition, and of a school of West­ern mysticism — and, in­­deed, of St Thomas Aquinas himself — when they affirm that no pro­posi­­tion can be altogether “true” about God.

This means that two contra­dictory propositions derived from scripture may be equally near to, as well as far from, any “truth” about God, and may both be accepted as throwing light on the ultimate mystery of faith.

Rigour in historical-critical study is essential — but only for establish­ing history. A search for the original “meaning” may be worth while in itself, but is not decisive for its meaning for us today. “Biblical truths” are found only through inter­pretation; the interpreter is sociologically conditioned; the active exercise of Christian faith is the necessary context for interpreta­tion, and is nurtured by biblical study.

Certainly this rings true for many of us. But a nagging question re­­mains. What is to prevent a pro­liferation of false interpretations? Martin discusses a number of these and finds reasons to reject them; but his point of vantage is confessedly personal to himself. Readers with different backgrounds and interests may (if we follow his methodology) legitimately beg to differ.

By Canon Anthony Harvey is a former Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey

Posted by John the Revelator

This is all BS ol’ Roy has always been the man we all know and despise today. He’s always been an ignorant rep for christianity as well as a racist white supremacist. He never should have been a judge but senator, that’s out of the question. What it all comes down too, is winning…and winning at any cost! Because of Roy more non believers were created.

o matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.

The race between Republican candidate Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half—ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy. Meanwhile the easy willingness of moderate and progressive Christians to cast aspersions on their conservative brothers and sisters has made many wonder about our claim that Jesus Christ can bring diverse people together as no other can.

The Hypocrisy on the Left

From moderate and liberal brothers and sisters, conservatives have received swift and decisive condemnation. They call these conservatives idolaters for seeking after political power. They call them homophobes for wanting Christian bakers to legally follow their conscience. They call them racists and Islamophobes for wanting secure borders. These moderates and liberal evangelicals are so disturbed by the political beliefs of their brothers and sisters that many say they don’t even want to be associated with them anymore; they seem to view these brothers and sisters in Christ as tax collectors and sinners.

In general, we have witnessed few Christians among these critics taking the time and effort to understand the views of their conservative fellow believers or to delve into the social and political realities they might be coming from. Some secular analysts, who frankly acknowledge being on the Left, have been doing this admirably. UC Berkley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right strives to understand Tea Party advocates in Louisiana, most of whom are evangelical Christians. And law professor Joan Williams’s White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America unpacks the class dimensions of much of our political divide. And then there is Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, which demonstrates the moral ground of advocates left and right. None of these writers could be mistaken for a conservative, but they each at least attempt to be charitable and fair-minded in trying to understand the views of those with whom they disagree. If only some leading evangelical progressive or moderate would do the same.

This is not to excuse some statements by conservative leaders that cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a slur against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. Some conservatives are fearful beyond reason. Some conservatives clearly worship political power as much as they do Jesus Christ. But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore.

When you actually talk to such supporters face to face, you often find more nuanced and reasoned political views, grounded in moral principles, combined with a ready willingness to condemn the immorality and verbal carelessness of these two men. These conservatives are of a view one can appreciate philosophically: Sometimes in a nation’s life, one must for prudential reasons cast one’s lot with a morally unsavory candidate. Sometimes it really is a choice between the lesser of two evils, and sometimes three. We can respect that while continuing to disagree with some of their prudential choices, as they disagree with ours.

Our concern here is with a cabal of noisy conservatives, whom the press has apparently (and unjustly) appointed as spokesmen for all conservatives. This group pretends that the choice for someone like Moore represents unalloyed godliness and refuses to unmistakably criticize immorality in other leaders they admire. To justify or ignore the moral failings of a politician because he champions your favored policies—well, that is to step onto the path of self-deception and hypocrisy, which according to Jesus, leads to no less place than hell (Matt. 23:15).

Of course, this charge of hypocrisy cuts both ways. It has applied equally well to progressive and moderate Christians, who have in the past turned a blind eye to the moral failings and moral bankruptcy of liberal candidates they support and who have decided, at best, to whisper truth to power lest they delegitimize their candidate or office holder. Clearly, there are moments on the Left in which partisans are too weak to resist the temptation to entrust themselves to the power politics of the moment instead of “to him who judges justly,” to whom “the nations are like a drop in a bucket … regarded as dust on the scales,” who “brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isa. 40:15, 23).

Hypocrisy on the Right

As suggested above, some of the critiques by the Left and center (matched by a fair amount of critiques by leading conservatives, by the way), are hard to argue with. Hypocrisy is again the most salient charge.

As recently as 2011, PRRI found that only 30 percent of white evangelicals believed “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” But by late 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, that number had risen sharply to 72 percent—the biggest shift of any US religious group.

The reason for the flip is not hard to discern. David Brody, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, has noted the desperation and urgency felt throughout much of conservative Christianity. “The way evangelicals see the world, the culture is not only slipping away—it’s slipping away in all caps, with four exclamation points after that. It’s going to you-know-what in a handbasket.” The logic is then inexorable: “Where does that leave evangelicals? It leaves them with a choice. Do they sacrifice a little bit of that ethical guideline they’ve used in the past in exchange for what they believe is saving the culture?”

Apparently yes. This is precisely why, when serious and substantial allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against Roy Moore, many doubled down on their support for him. Within days of this news story in The Washington Post, polls indicated that not only would 57 percent of evangelicals continue to support him, another 37 percent said they were now more likely to vote for him.

As some have pointed out, many conservative Christians simply don’t believe the many news accounts and chalk it up to a secular, liberal, Democratic conspiracy against Moore. Others acknowledge that while the charges may be true, they are minor in nature or happened so long ago they don’t matter today. Some are simply Machiavellian, saying they are not electing Mother Teresa but a man who can look out for the interests of conservative Christians.

What is going on here? Among other things, there is this: Many conservatives feel marginalized by the culture and remember the days when a Judeo-Christian morality didn’t need explaining or defending. They know that a people without a vision of sound moral grounding will perish. They don’t want to perish, and to give them credit, they don’t want this nation to perish. They really do believe that this is a matter of life and death. To them, our choices are simple and stark: devilry or godliness.

They are right, of course, about moral decline in America. Yes, there are all sorts of qualifications and nuances to make, and our culture, in fact, champions many biblical values (the recent #MeToo campaign and the fight against racism are but two examples). But there is no question that from a biblical perspective, our nation has lost its moorings. Nearly everyone does what is right in his own eyes, which results in moral, psychological, and social suffering unheard of in our history. The gap between rich and poor, the number of abortions and fatherless children, the steady rise of drug addiction, the increasing sympathy with euthanasia—these are but a few indicators that something is deeply wrong.

The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.

They have forgotten that old evangelical idea (and, before that, a Jewish idea) of putting a “hedge around the law.” That refers to behavior that is not wrong in itself but is practiced so as to not give even a hint of wrongdoing. It is not immoral to drink alcohol as such, but many Christians refuse to do so because they recognize that drinking alcohol may impair their judgment about matters that in fact are moral. When it comes to choosing leaders and shaping our life together, we’ve rightly followed this biblical teaching: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV).

This attitude has sometimes nurtured legalism and self-righteousness, to be sure, but it has also helped us to lead lives that are often respected by unbelievers, even when they don’t agree with our choices. We have taken seriously these words of the apostle Peter: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet. 2:12).

When a public Christian is accused of some immorality, the honorable and moral thing to do has been to take a leave of absence until the matter of settled. This is precisely what Moore, who sees himself as a godly and moral candidate, has refused to do.

But what if this is merely a political ploy to remove a candidate from running for office, and what if it’s all a lie in the end? What if our godly candidate is merely being persecuted and harassed (by “the powerful Obama-Clinton Machine,” as Moore put it), and this is further evidence we’re not in just a political battle but a spiritual one (as Moore has repeatedly claimed)?

Well, how does the Bible say we fight spiritual battles when, for instance, people “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” (Matt. 5:11)?

By turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).

By forgiving 7 times 70 (Matt. 18:22, KJV).

By doing good to our enemies (Matt. 5:43–48).

If we’re really anxious to help the nation become more godly, we have to act godly even when we think we are unfairly judged, even when the stakes are at their highest:

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:20–23)

Some have argued along these lines: We have the best chance in decades of reversing Roe v. Wade, protecting the religious liberty of the church, and reversing unjust and immoral laws! Let’s say for the sake of argument that such a political agenda could be enacted in the next few years by the means chosen—electing and supporting officials whose behavior is widely viewed as immoral. Will our political enemies be convinced of the righteousness of our moral agenda? Or will they think we are hypocrites who are using political power to force our wills on others? Will they more deeply respect us, or will they more deeply resent us and disbelieve our faith?

When combative conservative Christians refuse to suffer patiently in the public square, retaliate when insults are hurled at them, and do not refrain from the appearance of evil, they sabotage not only their political cause but the cause they care about the most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Resisting the Temptations of Political Life

What events of the last year and a half have shown once again is that when Christians immerse themselves in politics as Christians, for what they determine are Christian causes, touting their version of biblical morality in the public square—they will sooner or later (and often sooner) begin to compromise the very principles they champion and do so to such a degree that it blemishes the very faith they are most anxious to promote. And one of the biggest blemishes—for it is an open refutation of Jesus’ prayer that we be one—is when we start divorcing one another over politics. Jesus said it is our unity in him that will, more than anything, help the world see “that you [Father] have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). No wonder few believe much of anything we say anymore.

The way forward is unclear. For to love one’s neighbor in a democratic society means that Christians must participate in the public square to seek the common good. We cannot forsake our political duty, and that duty will lead believers in different directions. It’s just that when we do engage in politics, we so often end up doing and saying things that make us sound and act like we don’t care about the very values we champion. Perhaps the first step is for Christians Left and Right, when they stand up to champion a cause, to stop saying “Thus says the Lord” and “Lord, I thank you that you have not made me like these other Christians,” but frame their politics with, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”

By Mark Galli/ChristianityToday

Posted by John the Revelator

 

Before the European Enlightenment, virtually all New Testament experts assumed that handed-down stories about Jesus were first recorded by eye witnesses and were largely biographical. That is no longer the case.

Assuming that the Jesus stories had their beginnings in one single person rather than a composite of several—or even in mythology itself—he probably was a wandering Jewish teacher in Roman-occupied Judea who offended the authorities and was executed.  Beyond that, any knowledge about the figure at the center of the Christian religion is remarkably open to debate (and vigorously debated among relevant scholars).

Where was Jesus born? Did he actually have twelve disciples? Do we know with certainty anything he said or did?

As antiquities scholarship improves, it becomes increasingly clear that the origins of Christianity are controversial, convoluted, and not very coherent.

1. The more we know the less we know for sure. After centuries in which the gospel stories about Jesus were taken as gospel truth, the Enlightenment gave birth to a new breed of biblical historians. Most people have heard that Thomas Jefferson secretly took a pair of scissors to the Bible, keeping only the parts he thought were historical. His version of the New Testament is still available today. Jefferson’s snipping was a crude early attempt to address a problem recognized by many educated men of his time: It had become clear that any histories the Bible might contain had been garbled by myth. (One might argue that the Protestant Reformation’s rejection of the books of the Bible that they called “apocrypha,” was an even earlier, even cruder attempt to purge the Good Book of obvious mythology.)

In the two centuries that have passed since Jefferson began clipping, scores of biblical historians—including modern scholars armed with the tools of archeology, anthropology and linguistics—have tried repeatedly to identify “the historical Jesus” and have failed. The more scholars study the roots of Christianity, the more confused and uncertain our knowledge becomes. Currently, we have a plethora of contradictory versions of Jesus—an itinerant preacher, a zealot, an apocalyptic prophet, an Essene heretic, a Roman sympathizer, and many more —each with a different scholar to confidently tout theirs as the only real one. Instead of a convergent view of early Christianity and its founder, we are faced instead with a cacophony of conflicting opinions. This is precisely what happens when people faced with ambiguous and contradictory information cannot bring themselves to say, we don’t know.

This scholastic mess has been an open secret in biblical history circles for decades. Over forty years ago, professors like Robin S. Barbour and Cambridge’s Morna Hooker were complaining about the naïve assumptions underlying the criteria biblical scholars used to gauge the “authentic” elements of the Jesus stories. Today, even Christian historians complain the problem is no better; most recently Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith in the 2012 book Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.

2. The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Every bit of our ostensibly biographical information for Jesus comes from just four texts – the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Though most Christians assume that associates of Jesus wrote these texts, no objective biblical scholars think so. None of the four gospels claims to be written by eyewitnesses, and all were originally anonymous. Only later were they attributed to men named in the stories themselves.

While the four gospels were traditionally held to be four independent accounts, textual analysis suggests that they all actually are adaptations of the earliest gospel, Mark. Each has been edited and expanded upon, repeatedly, by unknown editors. It is worth noting that Mark features the most fallible, human, no-frills Jesus—and, more importantly, may be an allegory.

All of the gospels contain anachronisms and errors that show they were written long after the events they describe, and most likely far from the setting of their stories. Even more troubling, they don’t just have minor nitpicky contradictions; they have basic, even crucial, contradictions.

3. The Gospels are not corroborated by outside historians. Despite generations of apologists insisting Jesus is vouched for by plenty of historical sources like Tacitus or Suetonius, none of these hold up to close inspection. The most commonly-cited of these is the Testimonium Flavianum, a disputed passage in the writings of ancient historian Flavius Josephus, written around the years 93/94, generations after the presumed time of Jesus. Today historians overwhelmingly recognize this odd Jesus passage is a forgery. (For one thing, no one but the suspected forger ever quotes it – for 500 years!) But defenders of Christianity are loathe to give it up, and supporters now argue it is only a partial forgery.

Either way, as New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman points out, the Testimonium Flavanium merely repeats common Christian beliefs of the late first century, and even if it were 100% genuine would provide no evidence about where those beliefs came from. This same applies to other secular references to Jesus–they definitely attest to the existence of Christians and recount Christian beliefs at the time, but offer no independent record of a historical Jesus.

In sum, while well-established historic figures like Alexander the Great are supported by multiple lines of evidence, in the case of Jesus we have only one line of evidence: the writings of believers involved in spreading the fledgling religion.

4. Early Christian scriptures weren’t the same as ours. At the time Christianity emerged, gospels were a common religious literary genre, each promoting a different version or set of sacred stories. For example, as legends of Jesus sprang up, they began to include “infancy gospels.” As historian Robert M. Price notes, just as Superman comics spun off into stories of young Superboy in Smallville, Christians wrote stories of young Jesus in Nazareth using his divine powers to bring clay birds to life or peevishly strike his playmates dead.

Early Christians didn’t agree on which texts were sacred, and those included in our New Testament were selected to elevate one competing form of Christianity, that of the Roman Church over others. (Note that the Roman Church also proclaimed itself “catholic” meaning universal.)

Our two oldest complete New Testament collections, Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanus only go back to the beginning of the fourth century. To make matters worse, their books differ from each other – and from our bibles. We have books they don’t have; they have books we don’t have, like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Gospel of Barnabas.

In addition to gospels, the New Testament includes another religious literary genre—the epistle or letter. Some of our familiar New Testament epistles like 1 Peter, 2 Peter and Jude were rejected as forgeries even in ancient times; today scholars identify almost all of the New Testament books as forgeries except for six attributed to Paul (and even his authentic letters have been re-edited).

5. Christian martyrs are not proof (if they even were real). Generations of Christian apologists have pointed to the existence of Christian martyrs as proof their religion is true, asking “Who would die for a lie?” The short answer, of course, that all too many true believers have died in the service of falsehoods they passionately believed to be true—and not just Christians. The obvious existence of Muslim jihadis has made this argument less common in recent years

But who says that the Christian stories of widespread martyrdom themselves were real? The Book of Acts records only two martyr accounts, and secular scholars doubt that the book contains much if any actual history. The remaining Christian martyr tales first appeared centuries later. Historian Candida Moss’ 2014 book The Myth of Persecution gives a revealing look at how early Christian fathers fabricated virtually the entire tradition of Christian martyrdom—a fact that was, ironically enough, largely uncovered and debunked by later Christian scholars.

6. No other way to explain the existence of Christianity? Most people, Christians and outsiders alike, find it difficult to imagine how Christianity could have arisen if our Bible stories aren’t true. Beyond a doubt, Christianity could not have arisen if people in the first century hadn’t believed them to be true. But the stories themselves?

Best-selling New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman believes that the biblical stories about Jesus had their kernel in the person of a single itinerant preacher, as do most New Testament scholars. Historian Richard Carrier and David Fitzgerald (co-author of this article) take an opposing position—that the original kernel was a set of ancient mythic tropes to which unsuspecting believers added historical details. Ehrman and Carrier may be on opposite sides of this debate, but both agree on one important fact: the only thing needed to explain the rise of Christianity is the belief fostered by the rival Christian preachers of the first century.

Witchcraft, bigfoot, the idea that an American president was born in Kenya, golden tablets revealed to a 19th century huckster by the Angel Moroni . . . we all know that false ideas can be sticky—that they can spread from person to person, getting elaborated along the way until they become virtually impossible to eradicate. The beginnings of Christianity may be shrouded in mystery, but the viral spread of passionately-held false ideas is becoming better understood by the year.

Keeping Options Open 

University of Sheffield’s Philip Davies—who believes that Christianity probably began with a single Jesus, acknowledges that the evidence is fragile and problematic. Davies argues that the only way the field of New Testament studies can maintain any academic respectability is by acknowledging the possibility that Jesus didn’t exist. He further notes this wouldn’t generate any controversy in most fields of ancient history, but that New Testament studies is not a normal case.

Brandon University’s Kurt Noll goes even further and lays out a case that the question doesn’t matter: Whether the original Jesus was real or mythological is irrelevant to the religion that was founded in his name.

That is because either way, the Christ at the heart of Christianity is a figure woven from the fabric of mythology. The stories that bear his name draw on ancient templates imbedded in the Hebrew religion and those of the surrounding region. They were handed down by word of mouth in a cultural context filled with magical beings and miracles. Demons caused epilepsy. Burnt offerings made it rain. Medical cures included mandrakes and dove blood. Angels and ghosts appeared to people in dreams. Gods and other supernatural beings abounded and not infrequently crossed over from their world to ours.

Who, in the midst of all of this, was Jesus? We may never know.

Note: This story was co-authored with David Fitzgerald, author of “Jesus: Mything in Action.”

By VALERIE TARICO/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Life at times can be tedious and uncompromising, so we reach for that saving grace…music. For me, jazz. Jazz is a clown of sorts, it disguises itself as one thing only to be another. Its not a one trick pony, but a pony with many tricks. I was sitting back earlier today sipping some single malt scotch and listening to 2 albums I haven’t heard in a while. The first was the mind blowing Apocalypse by The Mahavishnu Orchestra. This was 73 recording produced by George Martin(no explanation needed). The clown reference I made earlier was jazz moving and shifting for the times. Players are all stripes was influenced by something or another. I remember shopping for some music and I saw the album cover.

apocalypse

I new I had to have it and man was I not disappointed. The record featured The London Symphony with the amazing interplay of the group. John McLaughlin the guitarist wrote probably the best music of his life. Not to be outdone was Jean Luc Ponty on violin and Narada Michael Walden on drums, these were the standouts. This recording matched rock of the times with subtle stylings of funk with a splash of dramatic classical music that was quite challenging. Also if I may add, not dead peoples music but an original score. I could go on for days about this. Go to youtube, iTunes or Spotify and give it a listen.

The second recording I mentioned was a 74 recording Sweetnighter by Weather Report.

sweetnighter

This Album reached for the soul of James Brown or (Funk)adelic/Parliament by George Clinton who’s biography by the way was a groovy read. I remember riding down ten ten road on a bright chilly day listening to WSHA when this song came on, the bass by Miroslov Vitous so heavy I could barley contain my composure and the funk coming from my speakers. The song was 125th street congress, to this day the it is still as infectious as it was then.

As I told the Lovely Mara as I drove through downtown, the 70’s boosted the greatest music ever written the 90’s comes in a close second. Jazz shook of the dust of being a populist music to getting down and dirty, showing off its leanings of tight structure while proving there chops and improvisational skills. Joe Zawinul is no longer with us from Weather Report, but Wayne Shorter is still doing his thing. John McLaughlin is doing his last tour this year and retiring, his hands have giving up on him. By all means check these albums out, I’ll be sharing some other records that maybe you’ll dig.

Written by John the Revelator

This is what happens when you are to sanctimonious and ardent in your beliefs. When something reveals itself from your past you immediately go to your bible and accuse everyone but yourself. This couldn’t have happened to a better person. All is fair in love and war. We send him our coldest regards…all those christians camping for this derelict, you have and share in his values. 

Roy Moore’s brother compared the U.S. Senate candidate to Christ in an interview with CNN on Friday, saying that the Alabama Republican is being persecuted “like Jesus” in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl.

Jerry Moore told CNN correspondent Martin Savidge in a phone interview that allegations about his brother’s history with teenagers when Roy Moore was in his 30s, reported Thursday by The Washington Post, are “not true at all.” He said that the Democratic Partywas behind the “false allegations,” adding: “These women are going to … have to answer to God for these false allegations,” Savidge reported. He said that his brother was being “persecuted like Jesus Christ was,” Savidge told CNN anchor John Berman.

Savidge described Jerry Moore as “very defiant and very outspoken, relying on his faith and defending his brother to the hilt.”

Jerry Moore also said he was worried about what effect the allegations would have on the brothers’ 91-year-old mother.

Roy Moore has denied the accusations. Asked Friday on Sean Hannity’s radio program if he remembered dating teenagers when he was in his 30s, he responded: “Not generally, no.” He said he didn’t recall dating “any girl without the permission of her mother.”

It was at least the third biblical reference someone has used to defend Roy Moore since the Post article Thursday. One of the four women interviewed in the article, Leigh Corfman, said that she was just 14 years old in 1979 when Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, took her to his home, removed her shirt and pants, fondled her and asked her to touch him. Three other women said Moore sought dates with them when they were 16 to 18 years old and he was in his 30s.

After the story was published, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler compared Moore to the biblical Joseph.

“Take Joseph and Mary,” Zeigler explained Friday. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

He also compared the situation to the biblical description of an elderly Zechariah and wife Elizabeth, who were the parents of John the Baptist.

“There is nothing to see here,” Zeigler told the Washington Examiner.

 

Roy Moore tweeted after the Post story: “We are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message.”I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values!

Our nation is at a crossroads right now — both spiritually and politically. (3/4)

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have said Moore should withdraw from the Dec. 12 special election — if the accusations are true.

Corfman told the Post, “I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” when she was at Moore’s home. She said she recalled thinking: “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”

By Mary Papenfuss/HuffPost

Posted by John the Revelator

The House Republican tax bill released Thursday would allow churches to endorse political candidates, rolling back a 1950s-era law that bars such activities.

The proposed change is listed at the end of the 429-page legislation.

It states that churches should not lose their tax-exempt status based on statements about political candidates made during the course of religious services.

The change to what is known as the Johnson Amendment has long been a priority of leaders on the religious right. They say the policy violates the First Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in certain political activities.

President Trump vowed to repeal the amendment during the campaign, saying it would “give our churches their voice back.”

Shortly after taking office, Trump said he would “totally destroy” the amendment, which allows the IRS to revoke a church’s tax exempt status if it’s deemed to be participating in a political campaign.

A group of more than 4,000 religious leaders from around the country wrote a letter in August opposing efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, saying it “would harm houses or worship, which are not identified or divided by partisan lines.”

BY BRETT SAMUELS/TheHill

Posted by John the Revelator

I am not the first person to point this out: There’s been a cultish quality to President Trump’s most ardent supporters. He seemed to acknowledge the phenomenon when he boasted that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose voters.

Throughout the campaign, and in personal appearances since then, Trump has harnessed the kind of emotional intensity from his base that is more typical of a religious revival meeting than a political rally, complete with ritualized communal chants (“Lock her up!”).

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Trump’s election victory, the zeal of some of his followers seems increasingly akin to a full-fledged cult.

I use the word “cult” in its pejorative sense, meaning a deeply insular social group bound together by extreme devotion to a charismatic leader. Such groups tend to exhibit a few common characteristics.

They are usually formed around an individual whom they’ve elevated to prophetic and near divine status.

During the campaign, Franklin Graham,Trump’s most enthusiastic evangelical Christian supporter, dismissed his many moral failings by comparing him favorably to the flawed patriarchs and prophets of the Bible: Abraham, Moses and David.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, told a talk radio audience that Trump was a better presidential candidate than someone who “embodies the teaching of Jesus” because Trump fit the biblical preference for a “strongman” in government.

Frank Amedia, an Ohio pastor who briefly had ties to the Trump campaign, explicitly cast the president as a prophet receiving divine revelations: “I believe he receives downloads that now he’s beginning to understand come from God,” he said in July.

The authority that a cult leader exercises comes from his self-ascribed role as the one true information source for his followers. Competing ideas and facts are not just wrong; they are demonic.

Trump, of course, characterizes most media outlets as “fake news.” He calls journalists“liars” and “sick people” who are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” In a May HuffPo/YouGov poll, a whopping 60% of Trump supporters agreed with him that the media are “the enemy” of people like them.

The cult leader is generally believed to possess special knowledge. No matter how demonstrably false his pronouncements, they become, by definition, truth for his followers. Trump has been spectacularly successful at getting his supporters to believe his blandishments rather than their own eyes. Consider the fact that in another HuffPost/YouGov poll, conducted after allegations of sexual harassment and assault surfaced against producer Harvey Weinstein, only 8% of Trump supporters believed the claims of sexual assault made against him despite the evidence of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

One of the ways a cult leader maintains his unquestioned authority is by creating a siege mentality among his followers and presenting himself as the antidote. In Trump’s view, the country is a wasteland of empty factories “scattered like tombstones” and crime-ridden cities that are more dangerous than war zones. “Our military is a disaster. Our healthcare is a horror show,” he declared during the campaign. And as Trump has often said, “I alone can fix it.”

This dark view of the U.S., in which honest, hardworking white Christians are under attack by hostile forces, has convinced Trump’s followers that they are among the most oppressed people in the country. In a survey after the protests in Charlottesville, Va., 45% of Trump supporters said white people were the most discriminated against racial group in the U.S., and 51% said Christians were the most discriminated against religious group.

Nurturing a cult following has its dangers. Cult members tend to believe that they are taking part in a cosmic performance, that they are fighting in a battle between the forces of good and evil. And if “good” doesn’t win — if cold, hard reality overtakes the cult leader’s lies and fantasies — the whole enterprise may collapse, sometimes violently.

That some of Trump’s supporters view the president in cosmic terms is clear. A month after the inauguration, Pat Robertson said those who oppose Trump are “revolting against what God’s plan for America is.” Paula White, the pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida and a Trump spiritual advisor, recently told her congregation that resisting Trump is tantamount to “fighting against the hand of God.”

As to cold, hard reality, the Trump administration is beset with multiple campaign investigations, ethics lawsuits, members of his own party abandoning him, open talk of invoking the 25th Amendment and impeachment.

Trump’s truest believers have sounded downright apocalyptic: “This is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats,” Jeffress said in 2016. “It’s a battle between … righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness.” Amedia declared that God personally told him that Trump’s presidency was paving the way for the Second Coming.

And then there is this warning from Trump confidant Roger Stone: Any attempt to remove the president from office, he said in August, would result in “a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”

If Trump’s presidency deteriorates further, expect the religious fervor of many of his followers to reach a fever pitch. That poses a risk for the country. Because the only thing more dangerous than a cult leader is a cult leader facing martyrdom.

By Reza Aslan/LATimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

I read this drivel and had to pause. I came to the conclusion he’s scared to speak up to address the real issue at hand. As jesus didn’t come back last saturday he’s not coming back tomorrow. Meaning, if we don’t at least try to fix it…what! Blacks didn’t create racism white supremacy yet we are the ones always trying to fix it. Pastor, get from behind jesus and take a stand. The bible and quoting it isn’t going to fix shit. Its really the elephant in the room. The kkk believes in your same bible and your same jesus to be white, guess you may have some things in common. Stop trying to appease white people to seem sympathetic, this is shameful. I agree and stand with Kap, we can stand or kneel doesn’t matter. Next time the there is an white nationalist march take your ass out there and preach the good news. I believe in love as well as non aggression. Only small movements will change anything, and protest are meant to be uncomfortable, stop using your pulpit to support white supremacy. “Riots are the language of the unheard” MLK. I will also add Protesting. 

https://media1.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2016_37/1705116/160912-miami-dolphins-kneel-cr-0743_64585a4e3857ab2cd09606f2778cd35e.nbcnews-fp-1200-800.jpg


Notwithstanding the myriad reasons professional athletes in America are protesting the national anthem, President Donald Trump, law enforcement officers, the military, or other social, civil, or political issue, entity, or individual, there appears to be a certain degree of naivety connected with the stated goals and objectives of these demonstrations.

Many of these athletes have stated that the protestations in which they are involved are meant to show ‘unity.’ But my question is, unity by whose or what standard of measure?

In Amos 3:3, the question is asked, rhetorically, “How can two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”

The question is deserving of thoughtful and contemplative consideration because unity, however one chooses to define the term, is not an abstract concept. It is not an idea that is devoid of contextual boundaries or parameters. If there is to be unity between individuals, whether three or three hundred million, it is established and maintained on the basis of objective principles that are fixed and immutable, not on precepts or propositions that are subjective and changeable.

I, personally, deem it inexcusable and irresponsible that the President of the United States, regardless of political party or ideology, would refer to anyindividual, let alone any American citizen, as a “son of a bitch” (as has been reported in the media.) It is with that thought in mind that I believe President Trump should publicly apologize to the individual(s) to whom his derogatory remarks were targeted.

The President of the United States, irrespective of ideological or political differences between himself and those whom he is charged with governing (Rom. 13:4), is nonetheless the representative of all of this nation’s citizens, not merely those who elected him to office. As such, he must endeavor to consistently exhibit a level of personal integrity, maturity, and, as situations warrant, restraint, as is befitting the office which he happens to hold not by his own volition but by the will of the American people.

That said, however, I find the protests being engaged in by these athletes to be somewhat short-sighted, particularly with regard to their stated purpose and intent which, to me anyway, seems rather ambiguous.

You will get no argument from me that the pursuit of unity is an admirable undertaking. But what makes it an admirable endeavor, for the Christian especially, is that the Lord commands and expects it of us.

In 1 Cor. 1:10, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “Now I exhort you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Conversely, in Rom. 12:18, Paul urges, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Understanding that the admonitions in the aforementioned texts are directed toward believers and not unbelievers, the point is no less germane to those who are outside the church in that unity, as a pursuit, requires context. In the case of these professional athletes, one cannot say that their protests are designed to ‘show unity’ if there is no objective definition of what ‘unity’ is.

You see, it is one thing to appear unified but another thing altogether to be unified.

This point is underscored in 1 Jn. 2:19 where the apostle John, in addressing believers about imposters within the church, declares, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

https://i2.wp.com/d279m997dpfwgl.cloudfront.net/wp/2017/03/tc.jpg

As I observe the current wave of civil disobedience in America, I am reminded that such protestations are nothing new. The act of taking a knee or raising a clenched fist, among other such gestures, has for decades (if not longer) been embraced by countless individuals as symbols of ideological, political, and religious disagreement and dissent.

As a veteran of the United States military (Army), I consider it both an honor and privilege to have spent six years of my life defending the Constitutional right not only of professional athletes, but of all Americans, to peacefully express such opposition as that of many professional athletes today without regard to ethnicity, sex, socio-economic station, or political ideology or party affiliation.

I took an oath to defend these rights because they are grounded not in subjective propositions but in the objective truth of imago Dei (Gen. 1:27). That is, the biblical precept that human beings are created in the image God and that, as His image-bearers, they inherently possess certain unalienable rights, privileges, and protections under the God-ordained mandate that governments – all of which are established by God – are responsible for ensuring those rights are protected and applied equally and indiscriminately (Rom. 13:1-7.)

As theologian Dr. William Edgar writes:

“Humanity clearly shares certain attributes with God. What is certain is that there is a tacit connection between the image of God and the honor due the human being.”Created & Creating: A Biblical Theology of Culture, p. 164

All this to say that, like the idea of ‘rights’, the idea of ‘unity’ must be objectivelyconceptualized in order to be considered a universally valid argument. It is not enough merely to profess to be “against” injustice apart from an objective definition of what justice is, and it is God, through His Word, who provides that definition.

“Blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times.” – Psalm 106:3 (NASB)

In our efforts to navigate the current milieu on matters of social justice, what we often fail to realize is that at its most fundamental level, the call for justice is essentially a call for human beings to practice God’s standard of righteousness “at all times.”

It is our failure to uphold this standard that has given rise not only to the contemporary protests of today, but also those of the past.

https://i1.wp.com/postmoderngentleman.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/MLK-Marching.jpeg

But the reason you and I don’t practice God’s righteousness at all times is we’re innately incapable of doing so.

As much as we’d like to believe that, as human beings, we innately possess the moral and ethical capacity and ability to change ourselves for the better, the truth is we do not. As God declared to Noah, “…for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21b).”

To subscribe to a paradigm of injustice that is measured against anything other than God’s standard of righteousness is an exercise in futility. Because, ultimately, human-centered solutions will prove insufficient, to say the least, to address what is fundamentally a spiritual problem.

And unless our innate sinfulness becomes central to the ongoing conversation on matters of unity and justice, we will find ourselves right back here again, incessantly engaged in circular tit-for-tat arguments which, ultimately, will prove to be of no real temporal or, more importantly, eternal benefit.

In Christ,

Darrell

Posted by John the Revelator