Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

KISS

Keep it simple, stupid. One of my college professors reminded us of that acronym constantly whenever we were discussing programming or system design. It tends to be good advice. I was reminded of it earlier today when I heard some people discussing the Sabbath Day.

The Ten Commandments tell us that the Sabbath Day is the 7th day of the week, and Jews were to keep it holy by doing no work on that day. What day of the week is the Sabbath? It’s Saturday. That’s why some Christian groups like the Seventh Day Adventists gather for worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. Of course, other Christian groups consider Sunday to be the Sabbath Day, though I’ve never really understood why.

The kind of Christianity I was raised under realized that the Sabbath was Saturday, but we didn’t believe we had to observe it. We believed that the New Testament (specifically books like Galatians and Hebrews) taught that the Law of Moses was done away with when Christ was crucified; therefore, no one was held to it anymore. The New Testament also gives examples of Christians coming together for worship on the first day of the week — Sunday. That didn’t mean that Sunday had become the “new Sabbath,” just that observance of the Sabbath was no longer necessary.

So why do I bother bringing any of that up? It just struck me as I listened to that conversation today that the Bible does not adhere to the KISS method. How simple would it have been for Jesus or Paul to take a moment and explain the Sabbath situation? They could have laid it out so clearly

Under the law of Moses, we kept the Sabbath Day holy. We rested on the last day of the week just as God rested on the seventh day of the week of creation. But now God has given us a new covenant, and observance of the Sabbath is no longer necessary. Instead, we will come together to worship God on the first day of the week — the day that Christ rose from the dead.

Or maybe they could have said something like this:

Just as Moses instructed you to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, so shall we also observe the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day — the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. For two days each week we shall worship the Lord and glory in all the things he has blessed us with.

Phrase it however you like. The point is, the issue could have been handled so simply. And the same could be said for any other issue. What is required for salvation? Is it faith alone, as many Christians believe? Is baptism also necessary, as some other passages indicate? Can salvation be lost, or are we eternally secure? Do we go straight to Heaven or Hell when we die, or do we first go to some kind of Hadean realm? Is Purgatory real? Is Hell real, and if so, is it literal torture or just separation from God? Will people who never knew about Jesus be saved or damned? Will there be a rapture? What about a period of tribulation?

We could go on and on. And if you get a room full of theologians, you’ll get many different answers for each one of these questions.

Why? If Christianity is the only true religion, and it’s the brainchild of the most supreme and perfect being in existence, why in the world is it not any clearer about issues of such importance? Why does every person with an opinion have to support their beliefs by cobbling together a series of passages taken from all over the Bible just to support one of their specific doctrines? Why can’t you pick one of these issues and go to just one passage that plainly lays out its explanation?

To me, it’s just one more glaring piece of evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth.

56 thoughts on “KISS”

  1. Personally, I would change the last line. Instead of saying that Christianity is a MYTH, I would say that Christianity is a MESS.

    Why can’t they keep it simple? They could just say that the Bible is a book of principles and that one shouldn’t hang on to little things that matter not. They should just cafeteria style choose the verses that talk of god’s love and end there.

    But no, they love to argue about everything and to prove that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. Who the heck gives a … you know?

    And why do people get offended when it’s said that the Bible is a myth? Myths are beautiful. All cultures have them and they’re helpful at explaining ancient beliefs. Saying that a book such as the Bible is a myth is actually a compliment.

    Like

  2. “what are the sufficiently clear issues?”

    Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man, as a devout Jew he preached a gospel of love and forgiveness to one’s fellow humans, that included a commitment to provide support for the poor-off, advocated a type of faith and holiness that conflicted with strict adherance to purity laws, he attractted the ire of the Temple aristocracy, instituted the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/whatever you call it in two kinds before he was arrested, was crucified by Roman authorities, but was resurrected as witnessed by several people, which provided divine vindication of his ministry. He made it possible for humans to move beyond errors and imperfections.

    That is the basic outline of the Christian faith, of course there’s more that’s clear enough. But I think this is the most relevant part.

    Other issues, like exact type of atonement, the nature of Christ, doctrine of the Eucharist, etc. do not have to be as clear, since they do not form the core and too much focus on them might distract us in livingthe gospel.

    Like

  3. Ignorantianescia

    Spot on! That’s pretty much what I would say too (if that’s any comfort!!). I would add that Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom on earth (i.e. an opportunity for each of us to be part of God’s plan and God’s way of doing things, and that we all need to give and receive forgiveness, including, most importantly, forgiveness from God, which he offers freely. I think my additions are implicit in what you have said, but merit spelling out.

    The important thing is that most everything else is somewhere between peripheral and helpful, but not essential. How we respond is much more essential, as you say.

    Like

  4. I admit that it is clear that he NT says that Jesus said he was the son of god. Jesus clearly talked about love and clearly talked about torturous hell. He clearly said to observe the OT, and clearly told the disciples to wait for him in Jerusalem at the same time he told them to meet him Galilee. Many different things seem very clear to many different people. that’s one of the points trying to be made. Of course you find your view of Christianity to be right, most do, including myself.

    I still dont quite understand your position though. The “clear” things that you pointed out were not about what anyone must do, or even if they had to do anything. It was basically that jesus was the son of god and liked love and mercy… and set up a kingdom that we could all find redemption within.

    So, what are the clear ways that jesus tells us to respond to his invitation? do we have to in order to enter his kingdom? are the consequences clear? Are they clear enough to show and convince others of?

    also, not to be argumentative, but out of really trying to understand where you’re coming from, can you give a example what a story that claims to be from a god, or a divine plan would look like if it were not true? how we could tell, etc?

    Like

  5. Hello William, thank you for your reply!

    Re sufficiently clear again, I would disagree with your list on a few points. I don’t think that his teaching of torturous hell fits the bill: the only unambigious statement is a parable in Luke, which might not have been intended literally as a teaching of torture in hell. There are clear discrepancies in the appearance narratives in the different gospels, probably the result of a confusion of traditions, so I would consider this a more difficult, scholarly issue. If there are such discrepancies in the gospel, I don’t think the issues can be called sufficiently clear.

    You’re right that most points I mentioned were statements (or facts if one believes them), though some did have clear consequences. I think the most important parts are a commitment to Christ, asking for forgiveness, forgiving others and following the gospel Jesus taught and for which he sent followers out to teach (this includes practical things as well, feeding the hungry, etc).

    So, what are the clear ways that jesus tells us to respond to his invitation?

    Commitment to his gospel, converting from our old way of live, asking for and giving forgiveness, participating in the Lord’s Supper. I don’t think this is a 100% hardline, HXC checklist, there obviously room for shortcomings.

    do we have to in order to enter his kingdom?

    I think that entering the kingdom is independent from our deeds and rests entirely with God’s decision, but I think that is a position (Augustinianism) that Christians can reasonably disagree on.

    are the consequences clear? Are they clear enough to show and convince others of?

    I think it’s either resurrection in the kingdom or continued non-existence, but I don’t like do convince other with reasons like that. It never gets anybody anywhere except by inciting fear of death or by arousing a craving for eternal life. That does not seem a very moral ministry to me.

    also, not to be argumentative, but out of really trying to understand where you’re coming from, can you give a example what a story that claims to be from a god, or a divine plan would look like if it were not true? how we could tell, etc?

    An untrue plan or story claiming to be from God? Well, if it is intended to be a factual story, having convincing evidence against it would be one criterion. Then there are other issues that would make it likely untrue, like claims that kings are literal sons of Gods opposed to all people made in God’s image. Is that what you had in mind?

    Like

  6. William, again I agree pretty much with ignorantianescia, but I have a couple of extra comments.

    Jesus didn’t teach about a “torturous hell” – rather he used imagery from his day to warn about the end of life (“destruction”) in the age to come (“eternal”) – see Hell and Rob Bell.

    “what are the clear ways that jesus tells us to respond to his invitation?”

    I think it is clear enough that Jesus calls us to follow him in his mission, and that means believing him, receiving God’s grace and forgiveness forgiving and serving others and living lives motivated by love – “love God and love your neighbour” was his summary.

    I have recently come across a number of non-believers and former believers who want a much more detailed prescription, and the New Testament does give us some of that, but in a fairly unsystematic manner as to suggest that God doesn’t want to pin things down too much.

    Perhaps it’s like a man proposing to his lady love – his question is simple and at that point he is not expecting a detailed manifesto in reply, but just a heartfelt commitment – the rest will (hopefully) follow.

    Best wishes.

    Like

  7. Just found your blog and have gone back and read many of your postings. I to like you have lost a faith that I held for 30 years. A new contradiction that I have found is where jesus said that Abiathar was the high priest at the time David took the bread even though (according to 1 Samuel 21: 1 – 7) it seems like the high priest was actually Ahimelech. Have you come across this one?

    One other comment I wanted to make was when I read your blog about depression I just about went through the roof. Do you know how many christians have thrown those comments at me yet would not if I had broken my arm. Depression is an illness just like a broken bone and needs to be treated by a medical doctor who is very informed about depression.

    Love your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts. I am one of those skeptics that has chosen not to come out for fear of hurting family. I admire your courage and your wife’s courage.

    Like

  8. But if a man proposes to his lady, she knows he’s doing it — and there’s no really horrible repercussion if she turns him down. But with Christianity, we don’t have God “proposing” to us directly — just some guys we never met claiming that he told them he proposed to us. How do we know we can trust them?

    That’s the whole thing, and it’s probably an issue we aren’t going to agree on. The Bible is filled with examples of people being shown miracles just so they would believe the message that was being presented to them. We don’t get that today — we don’t even get a book that’s so perfect its very existence seems miraculous. So why believe any of it? How is it any better than any other religion? And before you say it’s because no other religion has Jesus, that still doesn’t prove anything. Every adherent of every religion can take their favorite part of their own religion and say that no other religion has that; therefore, their religion is true.

    If God ever speaks to me, I’ll be happy to accept his invitation. But I’m afraid the varied stories of anonymous ancient people just isn’t enough to convince me. However, I have no problem with those who do find it persuasive, so long as they’re not the fundamentalist variety.

    Thanks for all the great comments.

    Like

  9. Hi Margaret!

    Yes, I’ve also noticed the Abiathar/Ahimelech problem. I wrote about it here, if you’re interested.

    And sorry if the post on depression offended you. I was still a Christian when I wrote that. There’s a lot of stuff in those old posts I no longer agree with.

    Thanks for the encouraging comments. I completely understand where you are with your family. My wife and I did the same thing for as long as we could, and after we came out, the fallout was pretty bad. I wish you luck as you continue to cope with it!

    Like

  10. “Thanks for all the great comments.”

    Nate, I laughed when I got to this – not for any other reason than that I appreciated how you could quite strongly disagree with me and still be friends and welcome my comment. It is a rare thing on the internet and I appreciate it.

    I won’t go over old ground, for you know what I would say. So I’ll pick one thing:

    “How do we know we can trust them?”

    1. We don’t “know” very much at all, we are human, we can only go with what seems most likely.
    2. The historians tell us we can know a reasonable amount.
    3. It still seems strange to me to have as a reason to disbelieve that you need more certainty. It always seems best to me to make the decision on the information we have.
    4. I do believe the Holy Spirit gives assurance to those who ask and keep on asking him. That means I must think that either (a) you haven’t asked and kept on asking, or (b) that you haven’t been listening, or (c) that you’ve been expecting, even demanding a different form of answer or (d) that you will still get an answer one day. I’m inclined to think (c).

    You obviously disagree with me on all that, but hopefully it is at least helpful to clarify some of where we differ. Best wishes.

    Like

  11. True, I disagree — but I’m also glad that we can do that and still be friends. 🙂 Best wishes to you as well!

    Like

  12. This title and so much talk about love and still this hasn’t been posted!

    All right, now in seriousness, I agree with your additional comments, unkleE. I don’t think the Bible would have been much better if it laid out necessary beliefs in the form of theses.

    Nate, I think I understand where you’re coming from with your statement about totality, but it’s not the way I would look at it. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the reason I am Christian, so I would place my focus on the writings about Jesus and the early Christians. The rest of the Bible is important, but I don’t think as important when it comes to doctrine.

    Like

  13. Nice video post 🙂

    I hear what you’re saying about the central importance of Jesus, and it is something I’ve considered. But I just don’t find the gospels reliable enough to make me believe all the miraculous things about Jesus. He may have been a real person, and he may have been crucified, but I just don’t feel there’s sufficient evidence to say anything more about him. I realize of course that others feel differently. I can’t throw too many stones at that — after all, none of us can know for sure. But for me, the gospels and the secular sources we have about Jesus aren’t enough to make me think someone ever really rose from the dead.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though.

    Like

  14. @ ignorantianescia,

    the bible is supposedly god’s word, whether directly dictated or loosely inspired and is meant to teach mankind about god, how to live, and how to get to heaven. It has contradictions in it. It has errors. In places it lauds amoral actions (at least that we consider wrong today). No one completely agrees on its interpretation. Yet people, when confronted with these issues, will say that your either not looking at it right, or that the problems within it are not important parts, but the good stuff is what is true and what we’re expected to focus on. People still cant quite agree on what the “good stuff” is, but to me, the fact that people can differentiate between the good and bad within the bible says that people don’t need the bible to know what good and bad are.

    Additionally, I fail to see how those answers, or excuses, to the problems of the bible are any different than the ones that could be given for any other religious text. How do we know the Koran is not god’s inspired word? Is there any contradiction or error that could not be explained away by saying “cant question god” or “it shouldn’t be taken literally here” or “it is written poetically to those who want to believe” and the list of excuses goes on and on.

    It seems to me that any contradiction or error could be excused in such a way. The indisputable facts are these:
    1. The is collection of books and letters
    2. These books and letters were written by men
    3. These books and letters were compiled by men
    4. While being compiled some books were accepted and others discarded (even though they had been accepted and used by some)
    5. It has contradictions within it
    6. It has errors within it
    7. It tells people about god, this life and afterlife – as do many other books and religions
    8. It parts it claims to be from god – as do many other books and religions
    9. it condones (at least in the OT) genocide, oppression, and kidnapping

    “An untrue plan or story claiming to be from God? Well, if it is intended to be a factual story, having convincing evidence against it would be one criterion. Then there are other issues that would make it likely untrue, like claims that kings are literal sons of Gods opposed to all people made in God’s image. Is that what you had in mind?”

    What I wrote above is more in line with what I was thinking. Even in your quoted portion here could be excused in such a way. If a text did say that a king was God or God’s son, an apologist of said religion would simply have to say that you cant take that literally, or say that “in a manner of speaking it is so” or any number of things to excuse what is actually written.

    How above prove that it is true, instead of waiting for proof that it is not? I’m sure you’re heard this before, but can you prove that there is not a tea pot that orbits the sun? if not, then are you ready to believe it does until proven otherwise? probably not, a rational person would need proof before they believed a claim such as that… right?

    Like

  15. William, just a brief comment. Most of the problems you describe arise because you have placed the Bible in a category as “word of God” (or at least, claimed to be).

    But it doesn’t actually claim that. It mostly doesn’t claim very much explicitly for itself at all. The NT writers used the OT as sacred text, but they weren’t very specific about what it was.

    It is mostly christians in the west in the past 200 years who have made the strong claims on behalf of the Bible, I’m not saying all those claims are wrong, but I don’t think they are all right either.

    I suggest (possibly not for the first time) that the correct approach is to take the Bible as a collection of historical documents believed by some to be sacred writings, and able to be assessed by normal historical and literary analysis. Read the contents and assess them on their merits. Read what the experts say. Then decide if you agree with the claims made on its behalf by christians and/or historians.

    I think such an approach sidesteps a lot of the problems that arise from making a black and white judgment (either inerrant word of God or nothing), and allows the writers to speak for themselves. I think that is sufficient basis for belief. You may not, but if you want to understand, I think that is the only route to follow.

    Best wishes.

    Like

  16. @ unkleE,
    You’re right, and I know you keep saying that, but I still don’t really understand it. I don’t know how to take the bible any other way.

    I get that it’s a collection of stories and letters. I get that it can be taken literally in some places, figuratively in others, and I get that some people take it completely literal or completely figurative. What I have trouble understanding is having a text that has plain problems with it, and using that flawed text as some evidence for god’s plan, god’s directly inspired plan, or anything to do with god? I mean, I feel like I take the bible for what it is – a collection of manmade stories and letters that credit god with a lot of stuff that god had nothing to do with.

    I still don’t understand why the bible can be explained in such a way, but other religious texts shouldn’t be… or would you say that the Koran must be taken in its correct context and also gives… whatever it is that people say the Koran gives?

    But even if you’re right about the bible, and again I am still confused as to what that exactly is, how can you be sure, or how can anyone else be sure that your view is correct? You must know that people feel certain that their views on the bible are correct, even those who hold it in a different light than you do. Is this something that can only be known once someone dies? And if faith is the answer, do you think that any faith would do? And if not, then the question repeats itself – how do you know, how can anyone know which faith is right? Especially if all we have as a guide is flawed… what make one flawed text superior to another?

    Again, I’m not trying to be argumentative or difficult, but I really don’t quite grasp what you’re saying. To me, it looks like an explanation that is only excusing, or bypassing the problems and errors within the bible.

    William

    Like

  17. William, I certainly don’t think you’re being argumentative, and I agree that once we delve into these things, they are not simple.

    But I think it all comes down to this: what is the right way to assess something of this nature? You and Nate (and others) seem to have chosen (1) to judge the existence of God by your assessment of the Bible, and (2) to judge the Bible by your expectations of what you think God should have done.

    That seems to me to be a wrong methodology. It is sort of circular, for a start. But more importantly, it makes assumptions about God that, by definition, we are unable to make. We just don’t know how a God (if he exists) would operate. I don’t judge quantum physics but what I would expect to find, but by what is actually found, and it should be the same with the Bible, and with God.

    So I suggest that the correct methodology is to take the world we see, the life we have and the Bible as it is understood by scholars and by common sense (not assuming it is holy writ or anything), and then ask – which hypothesis best explains all these facts? Now the questions you have of the Bible will be part of that assessment, but they won’t be so crucial because you are approaching it neutrally.

    When I do that, I find the God/Jesus hypothesis seems clearly the best. That does indeed leave me with some of the problems you raise, but any other hypothesis leaves me with many more unanswered questions.

    I think you are focusing on the problems of one viewpoint, when you should be looking more holistically, at the problems and positives of all viewpoints.

    “would you say that the Koran must be taken in its correct context”
    I would approach the Koran in exactly the same way. I have read parts of it, and it contains truths, but I don’t think it stacks up against the truths of the gospels.

    “how can you be sure, or how can anyone else be sure that your view is correct?”<
    No-one can be absolutely sure, we can only do the best we can. But mostly differences are not all that important. And I believe that the Holy Spirit guides people of good will towards the truth, not in a coercive way, but like a shepherd with sheep.

    “how can anyone know which faith is right? Especially if all we have as a guide is flawed… what make one flawed text superior to another?”
    This could be a key question. In the end, the guide isn’t a text but a person. God, in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, is the guide. Somewhere between God and us, the message inevitably gets a little garbled, because we are fallible receptors – so it doesn’t really matter where the “garbling” occurs, in the Bible or after we read it, the result is the same.

    We have to decide on the basis of what we have. God will help us if we are open to it. That’s what I believe.

    I’m sorry that was so long, I hope it helps at least understand what I think. Best wishes.

    Like

  18. I don’t think our approaches are all that different. I too feel like I’ve stepped back and tried to look at the Bible for what it is. To me, the most logical hypothesis is that it’s simply a collection of books that impart spiritual teachings — some of them good, some of them bad. But I see nothing to make me think there’s an actual divine core to any of it. I don’t find enough information to make me think that Jesus was really divine. So just because we reach different conclusions doesn’t mean we haven’t been objective and open-minded.

    Like

  19. Nate, I didn’t say you were not “objective and open-minded”, and I hope you don’t think I believe that about yo (or William). I said you were using an inappropriate and mistaken methodology. I think I can show this by setting out some logical arguments.

    You say: “There are reasons to believe the Bible is not a divine book, and not inerrant”.

    If there are people who think an inerrant Bible is the starting point, their argument would be:

    1. The Bible is inerrant.
    2. Therefore we can believe everything in it.
    3. The Bible says God exists.
    4. Therefore God exists.

    Your statement stands in direct contrast to #1, and if you can defend your statement, you have disrupted this argument, no question.

    But I’m not starting there, and I note even William Lane Craig, who believes in some form of inerrancy, doesn’t start there, but with the Bible of the historians. So our argument would be something like this (obviously in more detail):

    5. The Bible is a collection of historical documents which historians have analysed.
    6. Their conclusions include conclusions about the historical Jesus.
    7. On the basis of those conclusions, I believe Jesus was divine.
    8. On that basis, I conclude certain things about the Bible beyond #5 & #6 – that it is “divine” or “inerrant” or whatever.

    Now your statement above only contests #8, and so doesn’t bear on this sort of argument for the existence of God. To combat this sort of argument, you need to contest # 5, 6 or 7.

    That’s why I say that the arguments you use affect how we think about the Bible (they have certainly affected how I think about the BIble) but not the existence of God.

    Thanks.

    Like

  20. I agree with statements 5 and 6. But on the basis of those conclusions, I don’t believe Jesus was divine.

    I was just trying to make the point that I’ve also examined what the historians have to say, and I don’t think Jesus was anything more than just a man. Sure, the Bible fails the inerrancy test, but that’s not the only thing I’m basing my conclusion on.

    Thanks!

    Like

  21. That’s fair enough. But I suggest it means the inerrancy argument is pretty useless, and the argument against # 7 is what’s important. And I guess that’s for another time! : )

    Like

  22. Not at all — they’re both important, because people believe for different reasons. If we were trying to convince someone that Santa Claus isn’t real, we might spend all our time explaining the impossibility of a man traveling the world in one night, going down every chimney in the world, etc. But if the person we’re talking to believes because of the presents he receives on Christmas morning, then we’re probably wasting our time. We need to explain how those presents get there.

    Inerrancy is not a big deal to you, but it is probably the most important factor to many people in the US, especially in the South.

    Like

  23. Yes, it may be. But you ended your post with “In the end, it’s just one more glaring piece of evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth.”

    Now I think laying out the propositions as I did in my last post shows that your argument doesn’t get you to that conclusion. Yes, it might show that basing faith on inerrancy is not logical, but I was pointing out that your stated conclusion didn’t follow. That’s really all. If you were willing to change that conclusion, then we’d have no disagreement. : )

    Like

  24. Haha! 😀

    Well, I’ll probably leave the post as is. I actually think my statement is still right — “it’s just one more piece of evidence.” After all, the points I listed in my post certainly don’t help the idea of inspiration.

    Like

  25. Yet Nate, your conclusion above (“the points I listed in my post certainly don’t help the idea of inspiration”) is different to the conclusion of the post (“it’s just one more glaring piece of evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth.”).

    The two can only be equivalent if the evidence for christianity reqwuires the idea of inspiration. But neither I, nor WL Craig for example, use it that way.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s