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11.24.2011

Belief vs. Behavior

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When it comes to Christians, most will probably say I shouldn't have an opinion, because I am not one.

But I do have eyes and ears and other senses, and I am entitled to reflect on my observations.

I have observed that there are different kinds of Christians in practice.

One kind is the "do as Jesus did" kind. They try hard to adhere to the teachings of Jesus, and pretty much pick and choose their Old Testament behaviors. For example, Jesus would have kept kosher. Most Christians don't.

Another kind is the "what would Jesus do?" kind. These people are similar to the above, but they accept that they are pond scum in comparison to Jesus and can never hope to be as awesome as him. So they kind of do what they want and loosely consider in the back of their minds what Jesus would have done in this situation.

Then there is the "accept Jesus into your heart" kind. These are the ones who think that as long as you accept Jesus into your heart, you'll go to heaven, and what you do here on earth is pretty much irrelevant. It's kind of like "accept Jesus into your living room" but keep the skeletons in the closet so he doesn't see them.

Then there is my favorite kind of Christian, the "good samaritan." These people see Jesus as a teacher and they try to learn from him (or what we can know about him from the very biased New Testament). They don't try to be him or do what he would do, and they don't so much accept Jesus himself as accept his message. They go around being really good to others and trying to make the world a better place to live.

I think this latter group, with a little bit of insight, could make the leap to realizing that the Kingdom of God is right here at our fingertips. There is no actual heaven. We have to make it, right here on earth. And after we are dead, our eternal life is defined by all the good things we did. Or bad things.

For example, Martin Luther King lives on in people's minds, hearts, and even deeds.

Adolf Hitler also lives on, despised, hated, and "eternally damned" by almost everyone (except White Supremacists, who I think we can all agree live in their own self-loathing hell on earth...we might say they are the minions of Satan, demonic, evil, destructive, and hateful).

11.07.2011

Biblical Publication Bias

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I started the second of two books about the Bible that my parents sent me. This one is called "Lost Christianities" by Bart Ehrman. In it, the author explores early Christian writings and how it was that the current 27 books of the New Testament came to be the chosen scriptural canon, while hundreds of other Christian documents were labeled heresies, and either banned, destroyed, or forgotten.

Set aside whether the books of the NT are inspired or inerrant, and you still have the fact that powerful HUMAN individuals in the church chose which writings were to become the NT canon.

How did they decide? On what authority?

In science, this is called "publication bias." Usually it is driven by stakeholders with a vested interest in the truth not getting out. Many political players are involved. Sometimes scientists themselves do it. They often are funded by powerful stakeholders and if they publish unfavorable papers, their funding can dwindle.

When I worked at the vitamin company, my corporate overlords were explicit that we would publish no papers or articles that reflected negatively on the products. It makes sense from a profitability standpoint, but it is anathema to scientific truth and ethical behavior. For example, doctors need to know the benefits of drugs and vitamins to their patients, but also the risks.

So, are we to believe the leaders of the early church had no stake in what books were selected to be in the NT for all eternity? Clearly they did. If so, were they able to ethically and objectively decide what to make canonical and what not to?

That is what this book is about - all the many Christian writings that were available and why some lived on and others disappeared.

It is interesting that only in the past 200 years or so have all the other Christian writings started to be discovered, re-discovered, and examined.

Is it possible that God now thinks people are ready and open minded enough to contemplate and appreciate the views of the early, formerly "heretical" Christians?

Heresy literally means "choice." The wrong one, in the opinion of followers of the current canonical dogma. But perhaps God has decided that humans are once again worthy of free will and choice. It's a test.

Or is this the heretical work of the Devil?

I always like to think knowledge, not ignorance (publication bias is essentially ignoring work that does not agree with your views), is what God wants for humanity. Otherwise, is She a God worth having? And yes, many early Christian writings viewed God as a female deity.

You tell me, by commenting below.