Leaving the Fold

Leaving the Fold

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Hearing from God & Virtues of Faith

 How Paul thinks Christian’s can be identified

The symptoms Christian’s say non-believers exhibit due to not having God in their life are highly inconsistent. I have heard some Christians say that atheists always look unhappy or angry, or are just evil which is not only a generalisation it is also extremely false. This usually occurs after deliberately sampling one or two or even, ten or more individuals who are all going through a hard time in order to bias the outcome of their study. Journalists use a similar tactic, and it is especially a favourite amongst Current affair programs wherein often someone is deliberately provoked but the part where this happens is omitted so it just looks like the person is angry or unreasonable. Sampling only members of a group who fit a certain criteria (e.g. they appear angry) and drawing such a conclusion is, as far as hopefully all the scientific community is concerned, extremely poor form. Certainly, the given example of atheist behaviours is a highly biased example of sampling and is a poor application of statistical sampling (a pet hate amongst many students studying life sciences). While saying an atheist such as Dawkins, whose obsession seems to verge on unhealthy, is angry is possibly accurate it does not mean he or atheists like him are representative of the group as a whole. Some atheists and indeed people of many religions other than Christianity have shown a far greater capacity to show kindness and love to their fellow-man and woman. In the same vein, I do not believe Christians like Ray Comfort or the controversial and now diminishing American Westboro Church are representative of Christianity (especially not the latter). Nor are on line comments in forums or elsewhere, including blogs, necessarily representative of the group the poster represents.

 At times I have noticed that non-believers can demonstrate a greater capacity for forgiveness and remorse for their actions than devout Christians. Atheists and agnostics for one do not forgive because they fear the wrath of a deity ready to strike them down should they be disobedient, but because they believe it to be the right thing to do. There are also verses in the bible (specifically in Paul’s writings such as Galatians) that seem to make it seem like non-believers are proud of the fact they are sinners, enjoy sinning or being evil and are incapable of doing good, there are some to whom this could possibly apply, of which a number are psychologically damaged, but there are also quite a few people who are not proud of their mistakes or the pain they have caused another person, and they are not always Christian as Paul implies. Christians say you can recognise a true Christian by their fruits (from the passage, by Paul, in Galatians 5:22-23), but this is highly disputable.  

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
    — Galatians 5:22-23

These are certainly very admirable qualities to have and worth aspiring to, however, they are not unique to Christians. It could be argued that faithfulness is if it were referring to God but this could also be  interpreted as referring to marriage. Saying Christians can be identified by these traits implies others do not have them which is far from correct. It can be worse for a child who is led to believe a statement such as this, especially if they grow up in a sheltered Christian family, only to discover it is wrong. For example, I have heard more than one devotee in church when I still attended it claim they became a Christian ‘because Christians are all nice and lovely people’. This statement is blatantly false. Becoming a Christian on the grounds that all Christians are benevolent is highly unfortunate given that this is clearly not the case. If all Christians actually did all exhibit the fruits of the spirit, as Paul claims, I would still be one. This may prompt some discontent amongst believers who may complain I am assuming they are meant to be perfect or better than others, which I do not. I simply think that saying you follow a set of values and deliberately flouting them or making no effort whatsoever to follow them, is not good and reflects poorly upon Christianity. Trying to excuse this behaviour by saying "but we (Christians) are not perfect" or "we make mistakes" without taking any responsibility for it and dealing with it does not justify it. Some Christians do try to follow the above verse from Galatians and those similar to it, they struggle but do try for which I give them credit, but a large number deliberately do not. Sadly, most Christians will just say these people are not Christian in the hopes of pretending the problem of hypocrisy in the church does not exist, or at least not in the way the general public perceives it. This is unfortunate when they certainly ought to be doing something about it. It does not do Christians any good when members of their fellow brethren tarnish Christianity’s reputation causing some to turn away from God and, depending on the Christian’s personal view of theology, ending up in hell. On top of the above passage from Galatians, Romans 6 states that Christian’s are now dead to sin, this along with similar passages in Paul’s writings suggest that Christian’s are no longer prone to sinning or supposed to be able to sin which is far from correct. Paul's writings on the resurrection of the believers into new bodies also bear some inconsistencies, as some verses state that Christian's have already been born into this new body, some say they will be given a new one at the end of time that will be free from the corruption of sin.

Hearing from God

  • Paul hears from Jesus, literally. Why was he given this treatment and other non-believers were not? Some Christians say it is because God wanted Paul’s attention, but he does want everyone’s attention does he not? Other parts of the New Testament suggest that this is the case. Paul was not exactly an outstanding non-believer either, to which he admits. Even so why given those circumstances is he luckier than every other non-believer? If God had a specific use for Paul that means he does not see us as all as equals, in any case would Paul have converted without God’s intervention? From looking at the text alone that describes how passionately anti-Christian Paul was it could be assumed not. Also, Jesus gave no indication in the gospels that one of the major figures in proclaiming the gospels was not going to be one of the 12 and instead a man whom he would name Paul. This is despite indications in the gospels pointing to Peter playing a large part in Jesus’ teachings. This interpretation of Peter’s role is also the view of the Catholic Church, which traditionally appoints him as the first pope. Despite his exalted position in the Catholic Church, as far as scholars are concerned, Peter wrote little of the New Testament.
  • In a somewhat different scenario also on the same theme, the apostle Thomas doubts that the risen Christ is Jesus himself. Thomas then asks for specific evidence, and this is promptly given. This makes him far more fortunate than anyone else who doubts.  He was not reprimanded for not having faith or for not heeding Christ’s earlier predictions about the resurrection, even though he received the information straight from Christ himself and did not believe it. Now, we are led to believe anyone nowadays wanting evidence and not getting it will be severely reprimanded. That or they will be told that creation is the evidence. This is not a particularly convincing argument as it is can be used as evidence for the existence of a number of other deities and not just the Judeo-Christian deity. In other words this argument could be applied to a number of religions not just Christianity.
    • Some say God can only speak to us through other Christians. I have to wonder why. It is not necessarily biblical either as he did not speak to Paul through another believer, from the narrative it seems likely that if he had the poor unfortunate person sent to do this task would probably not have survived it. In addition, this would be highly unfortunate for an individual who never meets a Christian. Nor is it fair on someone who finds it difficult to trust Christians for personal reasons. In the Old Testament even there are lots of occasions where God speaks directly to people without the need of a third-party (although there are also occasions where angels fulfil the role of a third-party). Many of these individuals were not very remarkable to begin with either from what we can tell from the narrative.