God's Mixed Messages: Youth Pastor Killed by Lightning Strike (My Christian Daily 2016-01-23)

God's Mixed Messages: Youth Pastor Killed by Lightning Strike

See Divine Providence or Mixed Messages? A collection of news items showing how Christians suffer just like the rest of us.

Look at the Cosmos, and Compare that with what Christian Apologists Claim to Know for Sure

Questions about Cosmos

Do Christian apologists provide definitive answers to questions about the cosmos and humanityʼs place in it? The questions are obvious and based on known scientific data.

Leaving aside for a second the question of God, Jesus, heaven/hell, whom the vast majority do not claim to have seen or heard, letʼs look at the cosmos we can see. It may not only be weird but “weirder than we can imagine” (to quote J. B. S. Haldane). And it appears like we do not come into the cosmos so much as come out of it. In fact complexity appears to be how the cosmos flows, click here.

That being said, it appears like the cosmos might also be viewed as an immense experiment with all this matter and energy in constant flux, shaken endlessly—with incessant birth and death going on in teensy portions of the cosmos like on the quaking surface of our particular rock hurtling through space. Incessant life and death, evolution and extinction, even major extinction events, with the odds of another major asteroid strike or super volcano eruption increasing over time, along with the inevitable aging and inflation of our sunʼs diameter whose solar wind will destabilize our moonʼs orbit causing it to approach the earth too close and explode, raining death from above, an inevitable extinction event.

What I am saying is that the cosmos gives with one hand and takes with the other. At best it is in equilibrium with life and death, evolution and extinction. And it appears that if one wanted to reject the idea of a cosmos weirder than we can imagine but instead wished to posit some transcendent God or Demi urge for its origin, then it appears that about the best one could come up with on the basis of what we know is a Tinkerer of some sort. Judging by all the extinction events, both massive and continual and inevitable in the future, one might even wonder how many cosmoses of different types and sizes this Tinkerer might have tried out before setting up this experiment with this much matter and energy roiling about for billions of years.

As for the human species, it just arrived on the scene in the last cosmic second, and could conceivably be snuffed out the next, and the stars could go on burning for eons more. In fact I read two articles recently that said the cosmos has yet to reach its maximum number of either stars or planets!

Or, conversely, if humanity does survive longer than a cosmic blip and our species gets off the cradle planet and starts spreading throughout the cosmos what will humans look like a billion years in the future? Will those humans look back at us a bit like we look back at Australopithecus? How might genetic and cyber technologies alter our species, or the environmental pressures of having to survive on different planets? Will we use new technologies to uplift other species to human-like levels of sentience, or even find ways to join our sentience with theirs? What will AI be like in future? Maybe humanity is a stepping stone to some future silicon based life forms, or advanced sentient non human species? And so we might be here merely to pass along the torch.

Of course if something like the Carrington Event (massive solar storm from 1859) occurs and a solar flare explodes the worldʼs transformers (luckily the only danger was to telegraph lines back then), our present electronic-based civilization might crumble, since we couldnʼt possibly swap out all the exploded bits and get all the electronics back online even for water pumping or refrigeration in over a year. Same thing if the super volcano in Yellowstone erupts, or antibiotic-resistant microbes continue to evolve.

Does any Christian apologist really imagine he has definitive answers to all such questions, very real questions too, since new stars and planets are indeed continuing to form, and by all astronomical data they have enough fuel to continue to burn for billions of years should humanity take a tumble back toward barbarism or even extinction. Heck, humanity might even evolve into something less cerebral and more ape like. That appears to be yet another possibility.

Also, nature is basically one big buffet. Sometimes they eat you to death, or weaken you to death, sometimes they live off your juices just a little and are relatively benign, and sometimes they produce juices you can eat too (i.e., symbiosis — like the way we breathe the farts of algae and trees). But basically nature is constantly grinding up old organisms and spitting out new ones. How can one be sure what kind of weird ass Designer or Tinkerer came up with such a scheme?

Christian Theology is All Over the Map. Part 2. How Can One Gain Eternal Life? The Synoptic Road to Salvation vs. The Roman Road to Salvation

How Can One Gain Eternal Life? The Synoptic Road to Salvation vs. The Roman Road to Salvation

Many conservative Christians stress the necessity of holding specific beliefs rather than doing and acting certain ways toward others (perhaps because many Christians are taught that holding the right beliefs about God and Jesus and what Jesus accomplished on the cross is what assures them that God will forgive them regardless of their actions, so actions are of lesser consequence than right belief). Some passages in the New Testament appear to present the same view that belief trumps actions when it comes to salvation:

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Mark 16:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10 contains passages that some Christians have even nicknamed, “The Roman Road to Salvation.”

But looked at another way, one canʼt help but note that Mark 16:16 is not found in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark but is part of what textual critics agree is a later added ending. While John 3:16 (from the famous “ye must be born again” dialogue) is a similarly dubious saying attributed to the historical Jesus. To see the case against its historical authenticity click here. As for Paul, he admits he never met the historical Jesus of Nazareth, the one depicted in the synoptic Gospels. Even Paulʼs interpretation of the meaning of Jesusʼs bloody death butts head with that found in Luke-Acts (See Part 1 of this series).

Give such questions, shouldnʼt one look deeper at how Jesus answered the question, “How Can I Inherit Eternal Life?” as seen in the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke)? In the synoptics Jesusʼs main teaching and concern was “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” That was “the Gospel.” And in the synoptics you canʼt fail to notice that Jesus does little to try and get people to agree with specific beliefs “about” himself in order to gain eternal life. Jesus is depicted in the synoptics as advocating an approach to gaining eternal life that did not require outward showy religious displays or numerous rules, nor did he place major value on temple worship and blood sacrifices, instead he laid great stress on oneʼs relationships with others, as in his “Sermon on the Mount” Matt. chapters 5-7.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 7:12

Several times in the synoptics Jesus tells people to ‘love God’ and concentrate on storing up ‘heavenly treasures’ by ‘loving others,’ and to ‘follow Jesus’ in that respect:

“Good teacher,” one person asked [Jesus], “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the manʼs face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
Mark 10

Or there is the version in Matthew:

“Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One Who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew 19

There is also a Lukan version:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Luke 18

There is this additional teaching about how to gain eternal life that is also found in the synoptics:

“‘The most important one [commandment],’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”
Mark 12

“A lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He [Jesus] said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘You have answered right; do this, and you will live.’”
Luke 10:25-28

Such teachings emphasize “doing” in relation to “how to gain eternal life.” This is not to say that Paul in Romans, nor the author of the Gospel of John, lack similar sayings, for they wrote:

“[God] will render to every man according to his deeds, to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life….”
Romans 2:6,7

“And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
John 5

But, unlike the synoptics, Paul and the author of the fourth Gospel also have interpretations of who Jesus was that they tie up with their salvation messages:

“He who believes not [that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world] is damned already.”
John 3

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth… the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe… whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood…”
Romans 1:18; 3:22,25

But is blood sacrifice necessary for salvation? Jesus in the synoptics did not seem to think so when he instructed people to pray like this for forgiveness:

“Father… forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matt. 6:12

“Father… forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” Luke 11:4

Jesus in the synoptics taught that people who forgave the debts/sins of others would be forgiven by God without need of a blood sacrifice.

To sum matters up once again, as previously noted, Jesus is depicted as saying in Matthew:

“in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

If that sums up the Law and the Prophets, what need is there for much more to be said?

Or consider the parable of The Good Samaritan found in Luke, that ends, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10

Go and do. Doing is the main thing. Along with Godʼs direct and ample forgiveness regardless of oneʼs specific beliefs ‘about’ Jesus. In fact according to the Gospel of Luke one of the two thieves on the cross next to Jesus called Jesus ‘a man,’ but Jesus still promised him paradise.

Christian Theology is All Over the Map. Part 1. Must Christians believe that Jesus's bloody death had atoning power?

Must Christians believe that Jesus╩╝s bloody death had atoning power?

What did the author of Luke-Acts believe about the doctrine known as ‘the atonement?’ “There is at present no satisfactory consensus reached regarding the presentation of the death of Jesus in Luke-Acts. Many models have been proposed, but none seem to deal adequately with all that is going on in Luke-Acts.” See, the diversity of opinion in The Atonement in Lucan Theology in Recent Discussion Some argue that the Lucan Jesus is presented as an innocent martyr, righteous, or lowly man, or that Jesusʼs death was simply a means toward resurrection.

“Many scholars see no atoning significance in the Gospel of Lukeʼs presentation of the death of Jesus and no connection with the forgiveness of sins. There are three passion predictions (9:22; 9:44; 18:31-3), but nothing corresponding to the ‘ransom’ saying in Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28, and no ‘cry of dereliction’ from the cross in Luke 23. Even the citations from Isaiah 53 in Luke 22:37 and Acts 8:32-3 are said to demonstrate that Luke is interested ‘not in the atoning death of Jesus but in the fulfillment of scripture in the obedient passion (silence), death (humiliation), and resurrection (taking up from the earth) of the Servant.’” per David Peterson, Atonement in the Synoptic Gospels, who cites Conzelmann, H., The Theology of St. Luke, (trans. G. Buswell; New York: Harper & Row, 1960), 200-1; and, Sylva, D. D. (ed.), Reimaging the Death of the Lukan Jesus (Frankfurt: Anton Hain, 1990) which records a variety of ways in which the death of Jesus in Luke-Acts has been understood; and, Sylva, Reimaging, 146. In ‘Atonement Theology in Luke-Acts: Some Methodological Reflections,’ in P. J. Williams, A. D. Clarke, P. M. Head, D. Instone-Brewer (ed.), The New Testament in its First Century Setting (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans), 56-71.

Consider the Gospel of Luke where the author mentions that John the Baptist gave his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins because of Godʼs tender mercy (Luke 1:76-78), adding that the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:2-4); and the Gospel of Luke ends the same way, by stating that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his [Jesusʼs] name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-48), but nothing about the atoning power of Jesusʼs blood sacrifice. Same with the prayer Jesus taught others to pray per Matthew and Luke, the ‘Our Father,’ that mentions God granting forgiveness to those who forgive others, i.e., without God requiring a blood sacrifice before forgiving sins.)

Scholars point out that the author of Luke-Acts neglected to reproduce crucial verses found in Mark//Matthew that describe Jesusʼ death as a ‘ransom.’ Luke reproduces much of Mark in his gospel, including material from immediately before and immediately after the passage below, but omits this particular passage:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45 / Matt 20:28

Also, Luke 22:19-20 says “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” But some manuscripts only have “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body.’” that is, they lack the bit about a “new covenant in my blood poured out for you.”

Bart Ehrman in “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture,” makes a compelling case for why the shorter reading is the original. And this is the only passage in Luke that suggests Jesusʼ shed blood had magical atoning power.

Similar to the case found in the Gospel of Luke only a single passage in Acts suggests Jesusʼ shed blood has atoning power:

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

That is the only verse in Acts that suggests that Jesusʼ shed blood has atoning power, and much like the verse in Luke, there is a good case to be made that these words were not part of the original.

Without Luke 22:19b-20 and Acts 20:28 there is no concept of blood atonement in Luke-Acts. When Jesus died, according to Luke, it wasnʼt in place of sinners or on their behalf, instead, one need only repent and be baptized in most cases, to accept Godʼs direct mercy.

So if one need only repent and be baptized what is the cross about according to Luke-Acts?

Letʼs have a look at the preaching of Peter and Paul in Acts.

Peter preaches the following in Acts 2, Jesus was a man sent by God. We know he was sent by God because of the miracles. According to Godʼs plan he was killed. God raised him to life. God made him Lord and Messiah. God gave him the Holy Spirit, which he now pours out on his followers. In order to get the Spirit you need to repent and be baptized in Jesusʼs name. Peterʼs message is that forgiveness comes through repentance and baptism and then you get the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 3, Peter preaches that forgiveness comes through repentance and baptism isnʼt mentioned.

In Acts 4, Peterʼs message to the Sanhedrin is that salvation is found in Jesus, but this appears linked to his exalted current status, not to his death.

In Acts 5, Peterʼs words suggest that God exalted Jesus the role of savior after his resurrection, so it was neither the death or resurrection that has saving power, but rather Jesusʼs current exalted status.

In Acts 7 Stephenʼs preaching does not include a ‘gospel’ message, but it is clear that it is the power of the risen Jesus that matters.

In Acts 8, the topic is how you get the Holy Spirit. Again, this seems to be the objective of preaching in Acts.

In Acts 10, Peter preaches to Cornelius, informing him that what God did to Jesus after his ascension is what matters, and believing in the risen Jesus is the way to receive the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 13 Paul preaches the same message, namely that Jesus was a good man, wrongly killed, vindicated by God, raised, and then made Son of God and Savior.

In Acts 17 Paul basically repeats his message in Acts 13.

The preaching of the apostles in Acts repeats the same basic message, Jesus was a good man, wrongly killed. He was vindicated by God and raised from the dead. He became the Son of God and Savior. He can forgive the sins of the repentant and send the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, scholars have noted that a blood atonement is not the major focus of preaching in Acts. It might not be the focus at all in fact if two questionable passages that mention the ‘blood’ are later additions, as textual scholars suspect they are.

The gospel message in Luke-Acts is this: repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit.

To add to the above case, note that Luke 19:19ff (NASB), talks about ‘salvation’ coming to Zaccheus after he repents and returns ill gotten gains. This understanding of salvation precedes Jesusʼ death on the cross, and as in every other case mentioned differs from the traditional Christian view that “without shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins.” It also differs from the story of the rich young man in which Jesus told him to give away all of his possessions that he might have treasure in heaven and how difficult it was for a rich man to enter heaven, since Zaccheus only gives away half of what he owns, not all, and still, ‘salvation’ is his. Hereʼs the story in Luke 19:

He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. 3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. [The Greek is ambiguous as to whether or not Zaccheus or Jesus was ‘small in stature,’ though the former is probably meant, though if the latter is meant, it would be the only time in the New Testament where some description of the physical Jesus is presented. Though like I said, it is probably just talking about Zaccheus.] 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Nor does the passage demonstrate that everyone is “lost,” nor do these other Gospel passages:

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.“ Mark 2:17

“But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9.12-13

“And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Luke 5:31-32

In fact Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke does not say everyoneʼs heart is evil and wicked above all things, but rather states:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matthew 12:35

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

Jesus also says to “love God with all your heart” which seems impossible if the heart can will only evil choices and is desperately wicked in everyone at all times.

Moreover, the Bible is a big book and you can find passages that put forth the notion that God does not require blood atonement sacrifices because sometimes grain sacrifices are fine, but even more to the point are passages where God directly forgives people who repent. Such passages state outright that repentance and doing good takes the utmost precedence above all types of sacrifices, so at best atonement sacrifices are secondary in Godʼs eyes:

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!’” Isaiah 1:10-15

“Hear, you earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law. What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.” Jeremiah 6:19-21

Or, to quote Jesus himself…

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

Thatʼs it. Sounds pretty straightforward, not like the the merry-go-round of questions Christian theologians continue to debate, involving questions like, “Do I have enough faith, love, devotion, correct beliefs, etc.” How much and how fervently and exactly what must I believe in order to be saved? How many doubts and questions can I continue to harbor and remain “saved?” etc. Also see Part 2 of this series.

Agnosticism compared with Religion (or compared with any other fully formed belief system)

Agnosticism

I figure there are many good people in every mass movement or belief system, but that systems requiring the highest levels of conformity tend to create difficulties for people with questions like myself, and that people devoted to sustaining each system will employ plenty of rationalizations to convince themselves of its purity and truth and never consider that the evidence may be lacking or ambiguous in many cases.

I am sure any apologetically minded Christian could produce a list of their favorite books defending their Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal or other beliefs, and questioning every other point of view. But why didnʼt God show everyone the truth and keep Christians together? Why so many divisions and questions rather than agreed upon answers? I guess Satan is blinding everybody on all sides. Or as Benjamin Franklin once put it (without reference to Satan):

“Every other sect supposes itself in possession of the truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong. Like a man travelling in foggy weather they see those at a distance before them wrapped up in a fog, as well as those behind them, and also people in the fields on each side; but near them, all appears clear, though in truth they are as much in the fog as any of them.”

Personally, I tend to think of humans as primates with the tendency to leap on bandwagons and follow alpha males/females. I also agree with Eric Hoffer when it comes to humansʼ desires to join their egos to mass movements, whether such mass movements be Christian, Muslim, fascist or communist. Hofferʼs works contain some brilliant insights into the similar psychological drives that animate adherents of mass movements. As he put it, “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.” For more quotations click here.

And to expand upon Franklinʼs “they are as much in the fog as any of them” story, one need only read the testimonies of those who questioned and/or left Protestantism (click here) or Catholicism (click here) after being devoted to one or the other for decades.

Or one can read books by others who have found that like all mass movements that become institutionalized, the larger the institution the more willing it seems to make deals with the devil to retain its institutionalized existence, i.e., in the case of Catholicism such deals have been made with fascist rulers, or to keep silent concerning abuses perpetrated by members of the institution, or even deals with bankers and the Mafia, etc. (click here).

I also find that people who idolize figures in history or who idolize institutions usually donʼt know very much about them, or arenʼt willing to look at whatʼs swept under the rug so to speak, including Jesusʼs and Paulʼs apocalyptic soon final judgment predictions and cult-like teachings. Check out the new book, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (click here).

And check out my posts on the characteristics of Paul that strike me as indicative of cult-like behavior (click here and here).

Not to mention my older piece, The Lowdown of Godʼs Showdown.

The great irony of Christianity is that it consists of too many schisms to mention, including conservative, moderate, liberal spectrums of differences within each major denomination, yet ‘Christianity’ or rather ‘Christianities’ claims more supernatural advantages than any other movement on earth. Believers claim to possess the only inspired writings on earth, and a prayer hotline by which they may ask and receive guidance from God to lead them into all truth, and a new heart implanted inside them via divine favor=grace. Yet they have come up with countless schisms and centuries of defending intolerant and even in some cases unscientific points of view. I am not saying religion has not also done good, nor should believers deny that non-Christian doctors, inventors and politicians have also done good. You donʼt have to be a Christian to do good. My point is that Christians claim humongous supernatural advantages over every other mass movement and belief system, yet when you look at the history of Christianity it is the history of schisms too numerous to mention.

And for over 1000 years when a devout Christian (or a large majority of Christians) ruled over a city, country or nation, they instituted laws against blasphemy, heresy, witchcraft, etc., and continued to do so for centuries, from the days of the Christian Roman Emperors that later of whom wound up declaring in their famous book of law that all non-Trinitarians were ‘demented’ and that the Emperor would punish them and destroy their writings, all the way to the days of the Reformation when the same was still occurring.

  • Augustine of Hippo set forth the principle of Cognite Intrare (‘Compel them to enter,’ based on Luke 14:23). Cognite Intrare would be used throughout the Middle Ages to justify the Churchʼs suppression of dissent and oppression of difference (click here).

  • Christian persecution of pagans—exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians (click here)

  • Christian persecution of fellow Christians—exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians (click here)

  • Reformation Christian persecution of fellow Christians—exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians (click here)

  • Christian persecution of American Indians—exceeded the pagan persecution of early Christians (click here)

  • Decrees of Christian Emperors against non-Trinitarians (click here and scroll to bottom of blogpost)

  • Protestant and Catholic defenses of the necessity of persecuting heretics, blasphemers, infidels, etc. (click here)

Life is confusing enough, and features enough daily disappointments and pains, and requires enough time and work obtaining necessities to exist or thrive (not to mention that we humans can seemingly get sidetracked or addicted to nearly any idea, behaviors or items, due to our large brains) that I figure most people are apt to lend their allegiance to all sorts of mass movements and belief systems. But to imagine a God tossing us primates into a place of eternal punishment—without even giving us a second chance after we have finally been shown a literal heaven, hell and angels after we have died, and without even lending a supernatural hand to heal the scars left on our psyches from life on earth, or without even lending a hand to to glue together into more meaningful focus our broken scattered painful memories from life on earth, and after only allowing each of us this brief stint of a few decades years of life or less in a ‘fallen’ cosmos—makes little sense to me. Everlasting punishment makes little sense. What does make sense to me is to honestly admit that things we donʼt know are things we donʼt know, and that confusing or ambiguous evidence is confusing or ambiguous evidence, i.e., without trying to make excuses to fill in such blanks or hazy knowledge with fully formed religious or philosophical belief systems.

Miracles by Craig S. Keener — “Inability to walk?” No. “Improved Ability to Walk?” Temporarily

Miracles by Craig S. Keener

Craig S. Keener wrote in his book, “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” (2 Volume Set), Baker Academic, 2011:

David Friedrich Strauss (1808-74) [author of The Life of Jesus Critically Examined] explained early Christian miracle stories as myths depicted as history… Interestingly, Strauss did hear of contemporary miracle claims involving Lutheran pastor Johann Christoph Blumhardt, and a friend of his found himself cured of inability to walk after visiting Blumhardt. Consistent with his worldview, however, Strauss apparently dismissed the friendʼs cure as psychosomatic.

Keener makes it sound like Straussʼs friend was incapable of walking, i.e., “inability to walk.” But no source I checked said that, not even Isingʼs book that Keener cited as his primary source. So Keener provides a perfect example of miracle enhancement in his summary retelling, or at the very least he has left it to his readers to imagine a worst case scenario of someone with no ability to walk. But that was not the case at all as we will see. Nor did the “cure” last.

The friend of D. F. Strauss who visited Blumhardt was the German romantic poet and pastor, Eduard Morike, see photo below. All three men knew each other in their youth.

According to the book by Ising that Keener footnotes, “Morike can walk only with difficulty.” He did not lack the ability to walk. Ising also adds:

Morike was planning on a treatment by ‘magnetizing’—that is, the stroking of hands on the head with inducement to hypnotic sleep, otherwise known as ‘mesmerizing,’ a form of hypnotism to help relieve pain. Blumhardt told Morike that magnetizing was harmful. Later that evening, when Blumhardt accompanies Morike to his lodging Morike says that he senses more strength in his body than usual. Blumhardt smiles. “There is something special in the Mottlingen air; he should remain with Blumhardt here; no where else will he find it better.” The weakness in his backbone that is seen as the cause of his walking difficulties disappears. Morike leaves Mottlingen and Blumhardt to visit hot springs in Bad Teinach for his rhematic pain but returns once again to see Blumhardt, and reports to Wilhelm Hartlaub that now he is able to go on mountain hikes in burning heat. But his improvement does not last. In Feb. 1850 rhematic complaints reappear; in June 1850 he tries a Mergentheim water cure to relieve arthritic pains in his feet and legs. Source: Johann Christoph Blumhardt, Life and Work: A New Biography by Dieter Ising and Monty Ledford

Another scholarly source tells the story this way:

[Eduard] Morike had back pain and limb numbness. At the end of his weekend with his old friend pastor Blumhardt he received a parting prayer and laying on of hands and soon exuded such energy that physicians believed Morike a healthy man for nearly a year. The two friends, however, viewed the healing less a ‘miracle’ than a ‘gift’ symbolizing Morikeʼs return to faith after a period of doubt…

The cure stories at [Blumhardtʼs church] are not extraordinary for their pronouncement of miraculous causes, located as they are in a century of ecstatic camp meetings, urban revivals and Marian apparitions…

[The accounts of healings at Blumhardtʼs church] illuminate… the significance that each of the actors [in the healing stories] attached to the rituals before participating in them. Blumhardt and his penitents approached the confession expecting a profound religious experience. Hence, while there are reports of laymen who expected a sensation that never arrived, there are none to my knowledge of those who were caught unaware…

Blumhardtʼs miracles… bolstered the devotion of thousands to the promises of the revival while planting seeds of interest in thousands more, the majority never cured of anything… [And] the exodus of pilgrims from neighboring villages brought the ire of fellow pastors, and stern admonitions… from the consistory in Stuttgart who ordered Blumhardt “to direct the foreigners to the means of edification that are available in their hometowns.”

SOURCE: Daniel Kohler, “Pilgrimage of Protestants: Miracles and Religious Community in J. C. Blumhardtʼs Wurttemberg, 1840-1880,” a chapter in Die Gegenwart Gottes in der Modernen Gesellschaft: Transzendenz und Religiose Vergemeinschaftung in Deutschland / The Presence of God in Modern Society: Transcendence and Religious Community in Germany (German) 2006 by Michael Geyer, Lucian Holscher.

Another source notes that “His [Morikeʼs] health never improved sufficiently to allow him more than a few hours of productivity for weeks or months at a time… His own illness caused him constant pain, and his death on June 4, 1875 was not unexpected.” In context the source reads:

[Morike] was subject to rheumatic pains and eye trouble, and in 1823 we hear of an undefined ‘weakness in the chest.’ Today we could venture the hypothesis that he was suffering from the aftereffects of scarlet fever, but at his time medicine was not advanced enough to make such a diagnosis… Patiently he tried to show her that it would be wiser to wait for a parish in a climate beneficial to his health [in the mid 1800s there was no pollution control but plenty of smoke stacks spewing black smoke as industrialization took off as well as a lack of proper sanitation in cities making people not want to take a deep breath due to the stink, nor were houses easily climate controlled but still employed fire or coal burning systems and lacked air conditioning, so moving to a different clime could indeed aid a personʼs health]… In the meantime, the old struggle with his poor health and his antipathy to preaching also continued in these outwardly idyllic years… In November 1842, his superiors gave him the choice of either doing his work without help or going into retirement on a very low pension. Morike chose retirement; and at thirty-nine he moved with his sister to the spa of Schwabisch-Hall to take the [therapeutic/healing] waters and then at that end of 1844, when the climate still proved too harsh, to Bad Mergentheim… [he was] a poet whose nerves reacted to the slightest change in atmosphere, which he so beautifully depicted in his poetry… It seems tragic, then, that he gained his freedom too late to enjoy it, since his health never improved sufficiently to allow him more than a few hours of productivity for weeks or months at a time… Morke married Margarete November 25, 1851, after they had known each other for seven years. The courtship [that began around 1845] put an end to the two yearsʼ silence of Morikeʼs poetic genius just after his retirement. The years after 1845 were very fruitful ones for the poet… But his happy home life began to show signs of strain as the poet and his wife became older. Gretchen had always been a very sensitive person and took her illnesses just as seriously as the poet took his… His own illness caused him constant pain, and his death on June 4, 1875 was not unexpected.
Source: Eduard Morike by Helga Slessarev, University of Cincinnati (New York: Twayne Publishers 1970)

Also, as Ising admits, Blumhardt “does not cover up the fact that there are disappointments; not everybody experiences healing. Among these are people with ‘black star’ [cataracts] or those with congenital blindness or deafness… his prayer also seems ineffective for his mother-in-law.”

Is it any surprise that D. F. Strauss was not impressed when he heard of Morikeʼs “cure” at Blumfeldtʼs church?

Morike at the time of his temporary ‘healing’ was also engaged to a young lady he was excited about marrying, so Strauss added in a letter that it was probably not Blumhardt who cured Morike but “the god of love [Cupid?], who alone clearly delivered [Morike]…”

And Be Sure To Follow The Continuing Review Of Keenerʼs Book On Miracles By Matthew Ferguson Here.