Monday, May 13, 2002

Well, Mark Byron disagrees with Louder Fenn's characterization of my post as Unitarian, and says that it's actually Universalist. In any case, he takes me to task. First off, I welcome these criticisms. I certainly wouldn't say it gives me a chance to prove my side right, since I'm not exactly sure where I stand, but it's a good chance for me to further clarify my thinking. When I think about religion (or any matter, actually), I try to find a tenable position, and hold it until proven wrong through either criticism or more knowledge. I brought up a position I was testing as defensible, and apparently the forces of Apologetics are laying seige to it. I'll play Devil's Advocate (no snickering from the peanut gallery) on this one, and I guess we'll see what we see. I'll be jumping around Mark's post, so it may be a little hard to follow. Just to make sure it's clear, I really do appreciate the feedback I've gotten from that post, and I'm certainly not offended in the least that people disagree with me (though I probably should've hedged my bets by calling it a Theological Foray).

The central thing Mark takes issue with is my thought that Jesus is Son of God in a way different from how regular people may be. I do think that the Word had a major part (at least) in Jesus Christ, but let's consider what at least seems like a viable scenario. There's a school of thought (I can't remember what it's called, unfortunately) that says Jesus was just an ordinary guy (well...a haploid guy [sorry, science joke]) until his baptism by John the Baptist, where the Holy Spirit came down and "fused" with him. This theory contends that at this point, Jesus bar-Joseph became Jesus Christ and was in fact part of God. Now, it's pretty impressive to have God Incarnate speaking to you, but how much difference is there between God doing something personally and God inspiring someone else to do it (this also applies to miracles, with the "poof!" kind no more special than the simple ones like a hopelessly evil man turning his life around)? I have to say that I've always had trouble understanding the traditional view of Jesus' sacrifice. Yes, Jesus died on the cross unjustly. Other people were crucified for things they weren't guilty of as well (though I'm aware that they were still guilty of things with which they weren't charged). I mean, I see the whole "dying for your beliefs" angle, but I don't really understand the significance of the rest of it. Yes, we killed God (he rose, just in case there are any smug atheists reading this), but didn't we do essentially the same thing when we first disobeyed God, and every time we sin? To me, the crucifixion is worse than other things we've done, but still within the same scale. What I'm left with isn't a definitive statement that Jesus wasn't the same as normally portrayed, but a defensible position that this was the absolute least he could possibly of been. In John 1:1, we hear that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." However, if we were originally part of God, then couldn't it be said that all men are the Word? Angels (including Satan) would also seem to fit this description. A common contention about what Jesus said and who he was is that he was either a liar, a fool, or correct. However, what if there's a disagreement over the meaning of what was said? Imagine if Jesus had said that he was a New Yorker. Scholars might say that as such, he was likely raised watching Yankees or Mets games, riding the subway, and was accustomed to seeing the Statue of Liberty. However, wouldn't it also be possible that he was from Albany, rather than Brooklyn? What I'm basically saying is that with my knowledge at present, I don't know that the traditional view can be fully supported.

I think Mark misinterprets my comments on the virginity of Mary and the sexuality of Jesus dividing Catholics and Protestants. There's no serious debate among the two that Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin (though I do think that there are some valid criticisms of this that ought to be addressed) or that Jesus also remained a virgin, but that wasn't what I meant. The Roman Catholic Church considers Mary co-redemptrix, says that she always remained a virgin, and that she was sinless, else she couldn't have given birth to Jesus. To a Protestant (-ish) like me, there are some problems with this. If Joseph never consumated his marriage to Mary, were they really married? If not, then a lot of Bible genealogy is pointless since Jesus wouldn't have been heir to Joseph. Since Jesus is regularly considered Joseph's son, then it seems to me that he must've had a consummated marriage with Mary. Also, if it takes someone sinless to make another sinless person, then we need to assume that both of Mary's parents were also sinless. Ultimately, we could trace it back to at least Adam and Eve, who we know sinned. Thus, it seems more plausible to me that God forgave Mary's sinful nature and allowed her to bear Jesus. If details about Mary are rendered moot, then it doesn't matter who she was, and we can concentrate on God's Word.

Mark also points out that not by following laws will we be saved. I have to disagree. God told us to love Him and to love each other. That's a law. What Christians are freed from is relying on a far larger body of laws to tell them what's allowable. Many things that come up today aren't covered by Jewish law, and thus I suppose they'd be considered okay. However, Christianity tells us to consider ideas and practices in light of their relation to God. Everything must be judged by God's simple love-law.

I also didn't mean to imply that our souls would be destroyed rather than suffer eternal torment. The idea is that such destruction would be the only way we could escape at that point.

Lastly, we get to the uniqueness of Christianity. I assert that it's possible to achieve salvation without ever hearing a word about Jesus Christ (otherwise, a lot of people are screwed). As I said, though, it's a lot harder, which is why missionary work is so important. Such people may encounter Jesus after they die and recieve what correction is necessary, but it's not required in this life. The idea that some people have an easier road than others sounds unfair, but we have to remember that none of us even deserve a chance to be saved, and so arguing about who is helped more is ungrateful.

Again, I don't mean to disprove anything said by Mark or Louder (I assume Louder Fenn isn't his real name, but I haven't a clue what it is, so Louder he shall be). My Christianity as a theory is a chassis on which I add parts that fit until I've got something that works better than it did before. If I'm following the blueprint wrong, I'm happy and grateful to fix my mistake.

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