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Breaking Bad Religion

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  • Breaking Bad Religion

    One thing I was surprised to learn upon my conversion to Judaism was how they were quite open about the evolution of their faith over the millennia.

    One Rabbi described it as abrogating bad religion.

    As a Christian, I was always taught that Jesus (whom we believed was God) was the same yesterday, today and forever - unchanging, unyielding. Like a rock; unmovable and timeless.

    The implication being that what the Bible teaches is also unchanging, unyielding and timeless. I would interpret this as meaning the basic tenets of the faith are (were) the same as they were 2,000 years ago.

    I am currently reading How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, by Bart Ehrman. In this book, Mr. Ehrman illustrates how the idea of Jesus evolved over a specific time period between the middle of the second century CE up to the fourth. The issue in question was the exact nature of Jesus' divinity.

    In the early years after Jesus' death, he was viewed as an exalted human who became God after his resurrection from the dead. Ehrman shows how this idea of exaltation changed over time from happening at the resurrection to happening at his baptism and finally at the advent of his birth.

    By the time of the fourth Gospel, the exaltation of Jesus evolves into pre-existing deification; that is - Jesus was divine from the beginning of time, and not at his birth, baptism or resurrection as the earlier Gospels reveal.

    Even this kind of divinity evolves into what we now know as the Trinitarian view.

    All throughout these centuries, as the view of Jesus evolves; previous views of Jesus are deemed heresy - such as the earliest Christian community's view of an exalted human Jesus.

    So, my question is; can the Christian faith evolve even further, or is the current orthodox view (trinitarianism, blood atonement salvation, original sin, etc.) set in stone?

    NORM
    When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

  • #2
    Cardinal Newman's "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" may be helpful. Newman's thought-- or something like it-- was apparently influential in the Second Vatican Council.

    Development (or, to use your term, evolution) of doctrine can't look like embracing an older heresy.
    Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
      Cardinal Newman's "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" may be helpful. Newman's thought-- or something like it-- was apparently influential in the Second Vatican Council.

      Development (or, to use your term, evolution) of doctrine can't look like embracing an older heresy.
      Interesting reading, Spartacus.

      There is so much to the Christian story no one ever hears about. I am curious how more literalist Chrisitans handle this evolutionary aspect to Christianity.

      NORM
      When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by NormATive View Post
        One thing I was surprised to learn upon my conversion to Judaism was how they were quite open about the evolution of their faith over the millennia.

        One Rabbi described it as abrogating bad religion.

        As a Christian, I was always taught that Jesus (whom we believed was God) was the same yesterday, today and forever - unchanging, unyielding. Like a rock; unmovable and timeless.

        The implication being that what the Bible teaches is also unchanging, unyielding and timeless. I would interpret this as meaning the basic tenets of the faith are (were) the same as they were 2,000 years ago.

        I am currently reading How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, by Bart Ehrman. In this book, Mr. Ehrman illustrates how the idea of Jesus evolved over a specific time period between the middle of the second century CE up to the fourth. The issue in question was the exact nature of Jesus' divinity.

        In the early years after Jesus' death, he was viewed as an exalted human who became God after his resurrection from the dead. Ehrman shows how this idea of exaltation changed over time from happening at the resurrection to happening at his baptism and finally at the advent of his birth.

        By the time of the fourth Gospel, the exaltation of Jesus evolves into pre-existing deification; that is - Jesus was divine from the beginning of time, and not at his birth, baptism or resurrection as the earlier Gospels reveal.

        Even this kind of divinity evolves into what we now know as the Trinitarian view.

        All throughout these centuries, as the view of Jesus evolves; previous views of Jesus are deemed heresy - such as the earliest Christian community's view of an exalted human Jesus.

        So, my question is; can the Christian faith evolve even further, or is the current orthodox view (trinitarianism, blood atonement salvation, original sin, etc.) set in stone?

        NORM
        What ancient documents does he use? I am curious about what evidence he lays out. If it is merely his hypothecation, then never mind.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by NormATive View Post
          ... So, my question is; can the Christian faith evolve even further, or is the current orthodox view (trinitarianism, blood atonement salvation, original sin, etc.) set in stone?

          NORM
          I sometimes try to imagine not so much what Christianity will be like a few million years from now, but how they will look back upon our time. Will we be seen as part of the early church? Will Jesus Christ Superstar be seen as ancient and canonical? Will there be an early Christian heresy named after me? More seriously, the Trinity will not change but there has already been a decades long emphasis on 'Christology from Below', many differing views of atonement dating back long before Anselm. Likewise, original sin has always been understood very differently in the East. In general, I think there has been a general trend toward more dicerstiy and appreciation of diversity. One of the things I always loved about Judaism is the sense of humor about disagreements and the love of argument depicting very different perspectives which somehow merge together toward a multifaceted communal view of truth. I think as Christianity becomes as old as Judaism, it will mature into this kind of appreciation of various perspectives. If it does not, it will die out. Everything that is not evolving is becoming extinct. I am very optimistic about Christianity surviving, evolving, and flourishing, and hopefully healing the rift with Judaism.
          βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον
          ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

          אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by grmorton View Post
            What ancient documents does he use? I am curious about what evidence he lays out. If it is merely his hypothecation, then never mind.
            He uses the Biblical text itself, and some historic church documents. He's had something like a 40 or 50 year career both within and outside of the Christian community as a biblical scholar.

            It's rather a simplistic approach, really, which makes it probably seem less controversial than it probably is.

            NORM
            When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

            Comment


            • #7
              For anyone that might be interested, Emeritus Professor Larry Hurtado reviewed How Jesus Became God

              Here:
              http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/20...od-per-ehrman/

              And here:
              http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/20...us-amendments/

              I haven't read it myself yet. Sounds interesting if you can look past a couple issues.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                I sometimes try to imagine not so much what Christianity will be like a few million years from now, but how they will look back upon our time. Will we be seen as part of the early church? Will Jesus Christ Superstar be seen as ancient and canonical? Will there be an early Christian heresy named after me? More seriously, the Trinity will not change but there has already been a decades long emphasis on 'Christology from Below', many differing views of atonement dating back long before Anselm. Likewise, original sin has always been understood very differently in the East. In general, I think there has been a general trend toward more dicerstiy and appreciation of diversity. One of the things I always loved about Judaism is the sense of humor about disagreements and the love of argument depicting very different perspectives which somehow merge together toward a multifaceted communal view of truth. I think as Christianity becomes as old as Judaism, it will mature into this kind of appreciation of various perspectives. If it does not, it will die out. Everything that is not evolving is becoming extinct. I am very optimistic about Christianity surviving, evolving, and flourishing, and hopefully healing the rift with Judaism.
                I agree with this sentiment, Robrecht. I think a good Purim celebration should be mandatory in every Christian church. For those who don't know about it, Purim is the only Jewish festival (except the Seder), where it is actually encouraged to get totally smashed on alcohol!!!

                The festival includes a live, marathon reading of the entire book of Esther. Every time Haman (the bad guy in the story) is mentioned, noisemakers are rattled and everyone drinks a shot of vodka (or wine). Good times!!

                I see Christianity in a kind of crucial moment. The hard and fast traditionalists, inerrantists and fundamentalists will cling to outdated ideas as long as society allows it (and I think it must if only to honor our commitment to freedom of religion). We, of course, must speak out for those groups (like our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters) who are singled out in their attempts to freeze-dry Christianity in the 19th century.

                I was quite surprised to discover that Ehrman is no longer a confessing Christian, but is now an agnostic. I recall reading his Bible commentaries in small group meetings at one of the more fundamentalist churches I attended over the years.

                I am hopeful that Ehrman's gentle, prodding explanation of how Christianity evolved over the first 200 or so years until the Council of Nicea finally nailed down the dogma on the divinity of Jesus. His inclusion of the anathemas to the now famous Nicean Creed is illustrative of how far we've come, and how very divided the earliest Christians were on what one would assume as essential dogma.

                I think you may be wrong about the Trinity. I've had conversations with some of my Christian clergy friends on the subject, and they almost to a person do NOT emphasize it at all in their sermons. And, this is including the more conservative ilk.

                There seems to be more of an emphasis on how we treat one another in society rather than practicing "right religion." I think this is an evolution long overdue.

                NORM
                When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                  He's had something like a 40 or 50 year career both within and outside of the Christian community as a biblical scholar.
                  I don't think its been that long. He's only 58. He got his PhD in 1985.

                  It's rather a simplistic approach, really, which makes it probably seem less controversial than it probably is.
                  From the reviews I've read, its not that controversial, at least not in scholarly circles. The most controversial aspect of the book sounds like his early dating of a high Christology, which seems to be picking up supporters.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                    ... I think you may be wrong about the Trinity. I've had conversations with some of my Christian clergy friends on the subject, and they almost to a person do NOT emphasize it at all in their sermons. And, this is including the more conservative ilk.

                    There seems to be more of an emphasis on how we treat one another in society rather than practicing "right religion." I think this is an evolution long overdue.

                    NORM
                    Yes, orthopraxis. Get back to me in a few million years and we'll compare notes.
                    Last edited by robrecht; 06-09-2014, 10:49 PM.
                    βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον
                    ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                    אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                      Interesting reading, Spartacus.

                      There is so much to the Christian story no one ever hears about. I am curious how more literalist Chrisitans handle this evolutionary aspect to Christianity.

                      NORM
                      As far as most of them are concerned, any legitimate development of doctrine ended somewhere around the time of the Council of Nicaea. It's not particularly consistent (Newman wrote a bit about this: one of his more famous quotes is "to be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant"), since they want the Nicene Creed as well as the Christian canon of Scripture, but also insist that it was around this same time-- the time of Constantine-- that the Church became corrupted with saint worship and mariolatry and Popery and the like. While the rest of the church was corrupted by Papistry, a faithful remnant survived until about the time of the Reformation, at which time "real, Scripture-based Christianity" re-emerged.

                      Most Christians (not just Protestant or evangelical denominations) don't think a lot about history or the history of theology (at least not rigorously or systematically), so they don't ever encounter these questions to begin with. To the extent that the average layman does think about church history, it probably sounds something like what I said above. It's not something they feel very obligated to think about.

                      Any posted from a Reformed denomination will probably be ready to tear me apart on this, but at worst, one or the other of us will learn something
                      Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by OingoBoingo View Post
                        I don't think its been that long. He's only 58. He got his PhD in 1985.

                        From the reviews I've read, its not that controversial, at least not in scholarly circles. The most controversial aspect of the book sounds like his early dating of a high Christology, which seems to be picking up supporters.
                        I agree. It is not controversial among critical scholars. His change of position about early high christology was a movement of his toward a more conservative view of Paul and Christian origins in general. Some liberals might consider that controversial from their perspective but it is in fact a fairly traditional view. Some people thought Hurtado might have been one of the influences on Ehrman that led him to change his view but he said, no, he just realized it was the most obvious, undeniable meaning of the texts. It is very refreshing to watch a scholar change his view and admit to be being wrong.
                        βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον
                        ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                        אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                          I was quite surprised to discover that Ehrman is no longer a confessing Christian, but is now an agnostic.
                          Ehrman has been an agnostic for 20 years now, and has been a popular critic of traditional Christianity at least since his 1996 book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. You're out of touch man! :)
                          Last edited by OingoBoingo; 06-09-2014, 10:58 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                            I am curious how more literalist Chrisitans handle this evolutionary aspect to Christianity.
                            Mostly by denial. As far as they're concerned, if it evolves, then it's not really Christianity.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                              As far as most of them are concerned, any legitimate development of doctrine ended somewhere around the time of the Council of Nicaea.
                              And to a certain extent, they would be correct. At least compared to some of the tumultuous doctrinal striving in the first two centuries.

                              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                              It's not particularly consistent (Newman wrote a bit about this: one of his more famous quotes is "to be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant"), since they want the Nicene Creed as well as the Christian canon of Scripture, but also insist that it was around this same time-- the time of Constantine-- that the Church became corrupted with saint worship and mariolatry and Popery and the like. While the rest of the church was corrupted by Papistry, a faithful remnant survived until about the time of the Reformation, at which time "real, Scripture-based Christianity" re-emerged.
                              Yeah, I used to hear it all the time - I attended a Christian Reformed Church for many years!

                              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                              Most Christians (not just Protestant or evangelical denominations) don't think a lot about history or the history of theology (at least not rigorously or systematically), so they don't ever encounter these questions to begin with. To the extent that the average layman does think about church history, it probably sounds something like what I said above. It's not something they feel very obligated to think about.
                              I understand the desire to put the past behind - there was a lot of bad stuff back there. But, it is important to know where that bad stuff came from.

                              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                              Any posted from a Reformed denomination will probably be ready to tear me apart on this, but at worst, one or the other of us will learn something
                              LOL!

                              NORM
                              When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

                              Comment

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