RE: Fragility and tendentiousness

From: Alexanian, Moorad (
Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 21:36:03 EDT

  • Next message: Steve Petermann: "Re: Fragility and tendentiousness"

    Jesus the Christ is the bridge that spans the chasm that separates God from the rest of creation, especially from man. Some will cross the bridge and those who do are divided into two groups: 1) Those who know the nature of the bridge and 2) Those that do not. The former are people who place their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. The latter are, like Abraham, etc. before the birth of Jesus or people born after the birth of Jesus, who do not know Christ but acknowledge God and God brings them over to Him via the bridge. It is clear that those who know Christ and deny who He is choose to stay on the wrong side of the bridge.



            -----Original Message-----
            From: on behalf of Dr. Blake Nelson
            Sent: Thu 9/18/2003 8:53 PM
            To: Steve Petermann; ASA
            Subject: Re: Fragility and tendentiousness

            Well, you raise a really big issue that others can
            speak to as well, here are some thoughts interspersed.
            --- Steve Petermann <> wrote:
    > > I think the simple answer is that you cannot look
    > at
    > > salvation as a mechanistic sort of thing that you
    > can
    > > describe like physics.
    > This I agree with. However, I'm not sure the bulk of
    > Christendom would agree
    > with you. Mechanisms are all about constraints.
    > Obviously statements like
    > "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes
    > to the Father but by me"
    > seem pretty mechanistic.
            The problem lies in what this statement means. Aside
            from translation issues, the broadly understood
            christian tradition is that everyone comes to the
            Father through the Son, the second person of the
            trinity. This is a theological point, but it is
            critical to christianity and why the creeds go to
            great lengths to specify that Jesus was both fully
            human and fully divine. Yes, you only come to the
            Father through Jesus, through the Son, but that does
            not historically mean in the Christian understanding
            that everyone who has not heard about Jesus is damned.
             In modern understanding, even leaving aside
            universalism, mainline protestant denominations and
            the RCs and I believe E. Orthodox, none of those say
            that you must profess belief in Jesus of Nazareth as
            the Christ in order to be saved regardless of whether
            you ever heard of Jesus of Nazareth, etc. One needs
            to look at the theological understanding of salvation.
            It is the most simplistic to say that only those who
            profess that Jesus is their Lord are saved, but I
            don't think that that is necessarily borne out by
            scripture and the converse is certainly not true by
            Jesus' own words.
            So the first problem here is theological and more
            importantly the misunderstanding that is probably all
            too rampant of various theological positions on
            salvation. There are lots of detailed discussions on
            Salvation, one of them being The Mystery of Salvation:
            The Story of God’s Gift. A Report by the Doctrine
            Commission of the Church of England. I only mention
            this one in passing since it is in print and I have
            looked at it recently, even though I am not Anglican.
    > Even your "second person
    > of the trinity" sounds
    > pretty science like(the second law of
    > thermodynamics). Then, of course,
    > there are all the different salvation "formulas" the
    > get bandied around. And
    > what about the creeds?
            Well, the creeds emphasize that Jesus of Nazareth, the
            fully human being is also the Son of the Father, the
            second person of the trinity. So it is science to the
            extent that theology is scientific. As to His role,
            let's see:
            Apostle's Creed:
            he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
            and he will come again to judge the living and the
            We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
            the only Son of God,
            eternally begotten of the Father,
            God from God, light from light,
            true God from true God,
            begotten, not made,
            of one Being with the Father;
            through him all things were made.
            For us and for our salvation
            he came down from heaven,
            * * *
            For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
            he suffered death and was buried.
            On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
            he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
            He will come again in glory to judge the living and
            the dead,
            These creeds do not specify who salvation is for and
            how it is accomplished. Indeed, this is a dividing
            point among christian denominations at various levels.
            Likewise, the later Chalcedon definition was for the
            purpose of clarifying that Jesus was both fully human
            and fully God. It's only statement re slavific action
            of Jesus is: "Before time began he was begotten of the
            Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these
            "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this
            selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is
            God-bearer in respect of his humanness."
            It is only in later creeds, such as the Athanasian
            Creed that the mechanism of salvation gets more
            definitely expressed. That creed, states in relevant
            parts: "WHOEVER wishes to be saved must, above all,
            keep the Catholic faith For unless a person keeps this
            faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost
            forever." Now, that is not a direct statement about
            God, either. The creed goes on to say "He, therefore,
            who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the
            Trinity. It is also necessary for eternal salvation
            that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our
            Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the right faith is that we
            believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the
            Son of God, is both God and man." Of course, the
            creed goes on to say that "At His coming, all men are
            to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give
            an account of their own deeds. Those who have done
            good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have
            done evil will go into the everlasting fire. This is
            the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly
            and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen."
            Of course this creed is not one of the ecumenical
            creeds, written around AD 500.
            Even if we accept this creed as authoritative for
            belief about God's action here (and not all
            christendom does), it still says nothing about
            salvation of ETs if we take it seriously. Nor does it
            address salvation of, inter alia, those who lived
            before Christ, which the major traditions accept at
            least some or particular individuals as capable of
    > I know, I know it is possible to contest all my
    > objects with some
    > theological nuance. The bottom line in the point I
    > was trying to make is
    > that Christianity is becoming less and less
    > compelling for a many people.
    > Why is that?
            I think it is due to several factors.
            First, ignorance of dogma and theology. There is so
            much misunderstanding of what terms mean, in addition
            to how those terms are applied. Most atheist screeds,
            for example, talking about how ridiculous christian
            belief is a strawman caricature of christianity and
            are just plain theologically ignorant and wrong.
            Sadly, there are people whose beliefs probably
            coincide in a folk religious way with those strawman
            Second, I think that it is not due to "rational"
            reasons why people leave. Among other things, there
            is in modern culture several competing factors that
            perhaps have caused the falling away, including the
            ability of consumerism to distract people nearly
            endlessly from important questions, the unfamiliarity
            with terms in and forms of worship due to the
            aforementioned ignorance, the concomitant lack of
            ability to relate what goes on in church to daily
            life, etc.
    > Although I'm not member, I see a
    > virtual revolving door of the
    > newly disillusioned going through the local
    > Unitarian Universalist church.
    > My questions may sound like scholasticism but that's
    > because the premises
    > lead to a plethora of follow up questions. And they
    > are, by the way, not
    > irrelevant to the thinking persons I know. The
    > scholastics may have been
    > able to "reason" through each question but in the
    > final analysis was
    > anything compelling about their system? Did they
    > convince by their
    > gymnastics of logic?
            Here is part of the problem, while belief in God is
            rational and reasonable for a whole host of reasons
            apologists through the ages have proposed, the
            affective commitment of belief does not necessarily
            follow from rigorous logic. While it takes too much
            time to go into, among other things, the coherence and
            triangulation of multiple indicators make belief in
            God eminently rational, but each of those arguments on
            its own can be ignored, etc. It seems to me when you
            take the holistic case it is compelling, but
            christianity originated not as a systematic theology
            but in the act of commitment to Jesus and following
            Him. That is in many ways an alogical choice. Or
            arational as William James refers to it in the Will to
            Believe, which I think encapsulates part of the
            problem very well and which I wont go into here at the
    > Christianity may not be that
    > fragile as a whole now,
    > but what about 100, 500 years from now. The
    > populace is becoming more and
    > more educated and critically thinking.
            I have found that as a professor, more education does
            not necessarily lead to more critical thinking.
            Sadly, I think the average student today is not
            well-equipped for critical thinking.
            Regardless, critical thinking is certainly no threat
            to christianity and if employed more would hopefully
            weed out more bad theology.
    > The
    > scientific worldview is sweeping
    > the globe. All it will take is something new to come
    > along that speaks to
    > their needs but is less intellectually objectionable
    > and there may be a mass
    > exodus.
            Well, it has swept the globe and swept Europe a long
            time ago. There is nothing about the scientific
            worldview that is inconsistent with christianity
            unless one sneaks into the realm of metaphysics out of
            Here is the main problem -- people like Dawkins and
            Sagan spread scientism which is just plain silly as a
            philosophy, it is even more absurd than logical
            positivism of which it is a pale caricature. The
            problem to begin with is if you think critically about
            it, there is no such thing as a "scientific worldview"
            nor is there such a thing as a single, unitary
            "scientific method". The idea that there is some set
            of methods that you can use for quantum physics and
            literary interpretation that is certainly wrong. As
            Comte pointed out there is no such thing as *the*
            scientific method. To the contrary the methods of
            each discipline of science are largely different,
            indeed, each discipline's methods have changed over
            the years, and indeed, there is no one method of
            knowing that can be applied to all questions of life
            as the scientism proponents like to suggest (which is
            showing either lack of critical thinking, ignorance,
            outright duplicity, or insanity on their part). As
            Kant pointed out so long ago there cannot even be a
            rule of good judgment, because if there were it would
            take good judgment to interpret the rule.
            Scientism is just plain bad philosophy and uncritical
            thinking. I am all for people thinking critically
            about what science means and does and what it doesn't.
             It is only in bad theology or ignorance of theology
            that a scientific worldview has much of anything to
            say about religion.
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