Saturday, December 27, 2008

Liberal Christians - Score!

To our more humanistic readers, the idea expressed here will not be surprising, though the statistic that so many supposedly backward, Neanderthalic Christians believe it may surprise a few:

There is hope!


Blogger Gary D Macabre said...

The History of all the world religions are all so full of corruption (politically and linguistically) that taking any text 100% literally seems some what naive. I do tend to feel that a person is judged according to their faith. Christianity tells us we are not to judge, so how then is it right for us to judge others religious views. Perhaps faith alone is the key to heaven, and not any one particular avenue of faith.

Then there's the whole concept of heaven and the after life...

11:50 AM  
Blogger Matthew Baugh said...


It's heartening to see that so many Christians seem to understand that God's grace may actually be bigger than the dogmatic certainty of so many preachers. And it's not just us liberal Christians either. I'm hearing more and more Evangelicals who are fed up with the narrow and intolerant ways of the Religious Right.

It makes one hopeful.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Michael Bridgman said...

I'm not so sure about finding hope in this one, Kim. If there's anything that characterizes the American religious life, it is a combination of sheer incompetence and very muddled thinking, especially in the area of the afterlife. For the average person, the tendency is simply to project their own personal ideals and desires into their idea of the afterlife without any real theological or philosophical grounding. As such, following the American people in this matter would be to place trust in the shifting whims of the blind. Likewise, decades living in a sugar-coated society has largely kept the dark side of all human persons out of view, thus forming a cultural barrier to the realization of sin and the need for redemption. But in the broad sense, it was this very characteristic that defined humanity's religious experience in the first place, and so to act like there is no big problem with the human condition is to inhibit the religious quest before it has even begun. The author's remark about atheists going to heaven kicking and screaming is apt, for as I have recently argued, the universalistic and inclusivistic positions entail a disastrous breach of human identity and freedom. As to the second poll, the question 'Is the Bible the literal word of God?' is based upon the fallacy of of weasel words, for as any good seminarian will tell you, whether or not a passage is to be taken literally depends upon the literary genre in which it is written. Overall, then, America's religious life shows no particular sign of being any less mindless and muddled than it was before.

1:57 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I'm all for having a robust sense of universal sin and human failing, and I agree that those concepts are very out of place in the modern world and deemed quite unfashionable. However, I do find some improvement that we've gone from "Those bad people over there, esp those ones having fun, are sinful and they're going to hell!" to "No one is going to hell." My ideal position would be "I don't know about other people, but I fear I might be going to hell." That seems the most salutary outlook.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If as an atheist (and sometimes I revert to agnosticism), I go to heaven, whether I believe in it or not; how awful would that be? To have people saying, "I told you so!" for eternity.

4:31 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Ah, but someone who would be petty as to say "I told you so!" to one of the Elect would surely not get in himself!

5:48 PM  
Blogger Michael Bridgman said...

Well, in my case it's not so much a case of scapegoating other people and other religions as evil while my lot are all the spotless paragons of righteousness. Indeed, my arguments in the area of religious experience could easily be criticized as going too far in the direction of pluralism, but I was very careful not to cross that line. To me, becoming and being a Christian is a very humilifying thing because you realize you have a very serious problem, you cannot ultimately resolve the problem, and so you must lean upon God's grace to lend strength and salvation. But if the problem you yourself have is a part of the human condition, how can you not be filled with sorrow to see others numbly limping through without this grace (that old jibe about God being a crutch for the weak is rather silly in a world that is fragile and broken)? But even then, if with unchecked power we were to free ourselves from all controls and constraints, then all historical instances of this in actual occurrences have revealed human nature to be very dark indeed. Even within the greatest, noblest, holiest, and most just people, there exists the capacity for deeds that are truly monstrous, and in a certain sense, this too is part of our deepest nature. This is not, then, about wanting to see people different from me be punished and suffer, but about a very real problem with the human race and about how God can set us to rights without undermining our existential freedom of choice. On this view, to believe in the Christian message is to consent to participating in God's plan to set oneself and the world to rights, while not believing is to not consent to God's plan to set oneself and the world to rights, and hence to fail to receive the benefits and blessings of such a plan in favor of one's own existential choices and their inevitable consequences.

12:08 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I think I see where it's going. If I could paraphrase my take on hell:

If someone, ANYONE, sees the human condition as "broken," then they show themselves in line with God's plan, however tentatively and imperfectly, and therefore capable of redemption.

If someone really could say, "I reject the source of all Love and Goodness in the Universe and choose to go my own way" then that person would be what is commonly called "damned." Not because some external Power condemns him/her, but just because of what s/he believes.

12:47 AM  

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