Biblical Liberalism (2006)


I shall try to continue out discussion, as effectively as possible, and edit out any of my characteristic elements of style.

I think that you might think you are being rational and honest in presenting your views; however, I hold some doubts about that. I’m sure you have seen my sig line where I quote you admitting that you are certain that you and other liberal Christians rationalize to a far greater extent than you’re prepared to admit to anyone, including yourselves. That rings (to me at least) of someone who is at least somewhat consciously and willfully deceiving themselves, or at least is aware that they are subconsciously deceiving themselves. Either way I think the best solution for a person doing such is to find out where they are rationalizing and then stop doing it. Perhaps you have tried but it isn’t obvious from where I sit.

Apart from that issue, is that even if you do think you are being rational and honest in your views, it is worth questioning whether you are a good judge of what is rational. After all, you are the poster that told this board that you thought you had recognized the second coming of Christ alive today:

And you are the poster that tried to convince members of the straight dope that you have telepathic powers:

Perhaps you are right on both counts, but the evidence you gave is far insufficient for the claims you made. Many people would question judgment and rationality, if perhaps not the honesty, of others holding similar views.

I really don’t think that is why I irritate you. Perhaps I am wrong, but I truly think it is that historically I had been persistent in my criticism, when other atheists who have debated you had not been. That, and (what I perceive as) the fact that you do a very good job of making a poor theological argument sound very palatable to those not gifted with the best reasoning skills, and I do a better than average job of revealing that regardless of how well you dress up a poor argument, it is still a poor argument. The two combined, along with my familiarity with the bible, I think you find most disconcerting.

We have been through all this before, discussing it at great length…

…and as such I do not wish to have the exact same discussion over again. However, I think if you go back and reread some of our former correspondence, make an effort not to “rationalize” as you admit you are prone to do, you will see it very clear that Jesus said a lot of things that you do not agree with. You will also notice yourself going to great lengths to avoid admitting as much.

All three synoptics quote Jesus saying many things you do not agree with, and if said by somebody today, you would think they were quite hateful. Supporting evidence of this is that you have gone out of your way to state that Jesus did not mean much of what he said.

Sure he does; however, it is not always clear when he is doing so, nor are the messages behind a given metaphor or parable clear. However, when Jesus talks of eternal life and being one with the creator of the universe, I would think, if anything, that is highly likely to be a hyperbole or a metaphor, but since you like that talk (confirmational bias) you accept it, while waving off all talk of drinking poison or furnaces of fire.

Also, if Jesus were indeed one and the same as the omniscient creator of the universe, and he truly wanted to save as many people as possible, he would have had both the forsight and the motivation to communicate in such a way that his will was 100% unambiguous to his followers, both present and future.

While I think that is irrational I suppose that is your prerogative. However, when you say such, I think you should make it clear that you do not believe in the god of the bible and particularly not of the god described by Jesus in the very gospels you tout.

If not torment, as Jesus described it, then what do you think unbelievers should end up regretting? Also, why is it so wrong to refuse a relationship with something?

You are aware that Jesus does not describe himself of letting people go to hell but rather says he will send forth his angels to cast people there?

To make you metaphor match Jesus’ description of hell in the bible, the parent then goes on to kill/torture/torment/punish (take your pick) their child for an eternity, giving their child no chance to learn their lesson. My addition to the analogy does make it more accurate with the recorded words of Jesus, does it not?

You are assuming human free will, which does fly in the face the god’s sovranty over all things, as well as specific New Testament verses in Roman, Ephesians and elsewhere.


P.S. Did I break any rules there Tom?

What’s the debate?

Good question. That Polycarps response, which I quoted from here…

…holds up to scrutany, or just chalk it up to witnessing.

Beats me; I stopped reading after:

If you hold your debate opponent in so little regard that you start by attacking him (saying he’s wrong not because of the merit of his argument but because he’s irrational, plain and simple), it’s pointless. If this were a Pit thread, it would inevitably be one huge backfire.

I’d like to point out that when I wrote post #4, I was unaware of just how many threads about Polycarp have been started by the OP. I checked out of curiosity.

Wow, dude. Chill.

Moderator’s Note: Badchad, if you want to debate about whether “liberal Christianity” is rational, internally coherent, or compatible with the Bible, this is the place.

If you want to attack the personal integrity of another poster or posters on this board, this of course is not the place.

The first part of your OP, including several statements of the form “you are the poster that…” are getting closer to a thread that should be in the Pit; on the whole, the latter part of the OP is more like what we want to see in this forum.

Anyone else kind of creeped out by badchad’s obsession with Polycarp?


(Shouldn’t a mod move this to the pit?)

I don’t see where this is anywhere near pit-worthy. He’s bringing up specific points to debate. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Poly made statements and Badchad is disputing them. I believe he chooses Poly because they are equally articulate and knowledgeable with regard to scripture, and they are a good match with regard to debating abilities. In fact, I think their exchanges are among the most interesting and informative ones on these boards. I don’t see how this is out of line in the slightest.

Wow, **badchad ** and polycarp still at it after three years. It’s like I never even left! :smiley:

Hiya, chad! How’ve you been?

What the hell though, (so to speak), I’ll pretend there’s a debate here. It’s easy to imagine how the question “Is liberal Christianity contradictory” could be framed. I should point out that I’m not a Christian, but I’ve toyed with Christianity, and if I were a Christian, I’d be a liberal Christian as gay-bashing, denial of science, and condemning everyone to hell who’s not like me aren’t really my cuppa, and politically I’m a slightly left-leaning centrist.

The accusations against liberal christians seem to be that they cherry pick the bible, and that they whitewash hell. For the first, everyone cherry picks the Bible. ISTM it’s the conservatives (or rather the fundamentalists), not the liberals, who are in trouble here. If every word in the Bible is the inerrant, literal, word of God, then they are obliged to follow it all, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff. Furthermore they are obliged to follow the teachings of Christ to the letter–to turn the other cheek, to give all the have to the poor, etc. The Liberal Christian can accept that the Bible is the work of men (and maybe a few women) and gloss over the details in favor of the overall message of spirituality, kindness and redemption.

As far as hell goes, One can believe that certain people are simnply unfit for heaven. My own belief is that evil is tied into narcissism and lack of empathy. In other words, some people are simply incapable of seeing other people as fully “real” in the sense that they view themselves. It may be that entrance into heaven is tied to an ability to feel genuine compassion for each other. When Jesus says that “no one gets to heaven save through me” I see him as a bouncer, barring certain people who are simply unfit for heaven. Hell would be a place not of eternal torment from red-pajama clad pitchfork weilders, but rather torment from the damned’s own narcissism.

The Liberal Christian, as Polycarp has suggested, follows the two “great commandments” and tries to live a compassionate and spiritual life. Even if it does contain contradictions, so what?

There are things about the teachings of Christ that bother me, particularly the stress on accepting things without evidence. That’s never a good idea. But that has nothing to do with “liberal” Christianity per se.

That may be true for the second part of the OP, but the first part is just “Look at Polycarp! He’s wierd!” Sorry but when a member’s whole focus on the board is to follow another member around and bait him, that’s not debating an issue, that’s something else, something close to stalking.

Wow…the time people have on their hands…amazing…

I agree with Kalhoun. I find these two’s exchanges informative and just plain darn (it’s a religious thread) fascinating reading. And of course they have too much time on their hands, but I’m the better educated and informed because they do.

Sir Rhosis

Part of the problem here is you characterize fundamentalist Christians as being in denial of science, while liberal Christians accepting of science. The difference here is only in mild degree and not in kind. Fundamentalist accept science only so far as they do not perceive it contradicting their faith. The generally accept medicine, air conditioning, automobiles, germs, and atoms. For the most part they just doubt evolution, the big bang and the age of the universe. However, while liberals Christians accept these few scientific findings, they still believe in varying degrees of physical impossibilities (a.k.a. occurrences that deny science) every bit as much as the 6 day creation story and Noah’s ark do. Most liberals admit belief in at least a few of Jesus’ miracles, most importantly his resurrection. Science does have much to say about that. It is scientifically impossible for a corpse drained of its blood and decomposing for 2 days to reanimate itself. Scientific evidence is every bit as suggesting of that fact, as it is suggesting that the entire earth was not covered by water in a great flood ~4000 years ago.

Gay bashing, I’ll give you. Liberal Christians are generally less prejudiced than fundamentalists, (and this is a good thing) yet they still promote faith as a virtue. By promoting faith as a virtue they give tacit approval to all the hateful things committed by Fundamentalists in the name of faith. Liberals still believe in absurd notions largely due to their belief that faith in the place of reason has at least some merit. Liberals just don’t have the faith to “trust in the word of the lord” to the same degree as the fundamentalists do. Fundamentalist think if a little faith is good, more is better, and they generally perceive their liberal brothers as wishy-washy, and caught up with the morality of this world, rather than the following the commands attributed to god in the bible. This atheist agrees with them.

True, all Christians cherry pick the bible. It is a matter of degree. However, fundamentalists have some semblance of intellectual integrity, preserved by being either fully deceived, or by at least suffering guilt over straying from the bible. I don’t defend them, but I give them a few points for at least trying to follow what they think is the will of god, even when it goes against their selfish desires. Liberal Christians pretty much do as they please, and when the bible coincidentally confirms one of their beliefs then they proclaim “here I take this passage literally as the true word of god.”

Yes, I agree fundamentalists are obliged to do so, and when they don’t you are right to criticize them. However, a liberal Christian, of Polycarp’s persuasion in particular, who maintains that he ignores much of the bible but really does follow the teachings of Christ is also obliged to turn the other cheek and give all he has to the poor, etc. because those are directly from the words of Christ. If Polycarp said he just follows whatever he wants arbitrarily that would be one thing, but he has said several times that he follows Christ and he lets Christ determine what in the bible is important. As I pointed out, and fully illustrate with specific examples in the threads I linked, Christ says a lot of stuff that is unacceptable to Polycarp and unacceptable to most Christians, liberals in particular.

But here is where much of their reasoning breaks down. The fundamentalist say they believe in god much because of the authority in the bible, the strength of the testimonies, the reality of the miracles and the foretold prophesies. Fundamentalists themselves admit that if the bible were proven false it would undermine their beliefs, and it should. Fundamentalists accept the reasonable and scientific notion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to back them up. Liberal Christians snub their nose at this, and believe in claims every bit as extraordinary as that of the fundamentalists, but do so being fully cognizant that their source of such claims (the bible) is packed full of lies. They don’t like to admit the existence of lies; however, and use better euphemisms.

If Jesus just damns people to torment for peoples narcissism, it is worth asking why Jesus/god created certain people to be narcissistic. Also, there is New Testament support that all people are of themselves evil, and god just grants his grace arbitrarily to a few. Or to use your analogy, everyone is narcissistic, a few just get lucky and to go paradise instead of torment anyway. Even if we were to accept human free will, and admit that all things do not happen in accordance with god’s will, we still have the problem of Jesus killing/torturing people infinitely for what were finite crimes with no chance for refrain.

On a message board who’s mission is to fight ignorance I think all ignorance is worthy of pointing out, benevolent in intent, or not. Your question sounds similar to those who question the motives of those debunking psychics like Jon Edward. Who do they hurt? Well first off, WRT our topic, it is hurting people who, rather than save for their retirements, give money to the Church to perpetuate this virus we call Christianity. It hurts those smart enough to save for their retirements as their tax dollars are squandered supporting those too foolish to save. Money converting to time, and time being converted to life, this robs the life of not only the ignorant but those who are required by law to help support the ignorant. It hurts homosexuals who are discriminated against because faith is promoted as a substitute for reason. Liberal Christians may argue in favor of gay rights, but the acceptance and promotion of faith is the root of this evil. It hurts abortion doctors who are murdered in the name of faith. It gives liberal Christians no strong ground to counter the faith based atrocities sometimes committed by Muslims in the name of alternate faiths. I’m sure I can think of more.

When someone promotes Christ as the avatar of divine wisdom there is always the danger that others will read what Christ actually taught and, as horrible as it sounds, actually take his teachings to heart.

To Kalhoun; You did a good job of summing up my motivation.

To Godzillatemple: It’s good to hear from you again. I just rejoined a few days ago myself. Your comments are always appreciated.

To those who think I’m obsessed: I could say “so what” but it’s worth noting I haven’t posted here in nearly thee years and only did so after Poly brought up my name while implying people should not poke fun of his faith.

To those who just want to throw stones: Do as you will, I like the attention.

To Sid: Thanks.


“To Sid”, should be to “Sir Rhosis”

From BadChad’s original post:

How can you find fault with this? He highlighted an example of a contradiction that, frankly, I find extremely revealing. For BadChad’s purposes, this is the perfect starting point for the debate. I wonder to myself (and frequently out loud) can these people hear themselves? When someone admits that they’re rationalizing, and then continue to proclaim that there’s authenticity to the concept of christianity, why wouldn’t a skilled debater call him on it?

Look…I like Poly. He’s always given me a fair shake, knowing I’m not a biblical scholar, by laying out his opinion in layman’s terms. That said, I’m obviously in disagreement with him with regard to christianity and specifically liberal christianity, so my opinions are naturally in line with BadChad’s. As far as following him around goes, we all participate in threads we’re interested in. BadChad is good at debating this stuff because he knows the subject matter (namely, the bible) and is one of a small handful of folks around here who can articulate his argument on equal footing with Poly. I don’t have the tools to go toe-to-toe with a believer except in the broadest terms. BadChad posts with an equal degree of authority, both in substance and tone. I find it refreshing.

Ok, first I’m probably the wrong person to be defending liberal christianity, or Christianity of any sort. I’m not a Christian, wasn’t raised in any religious tradition, don’t go to Church except for weddings and funerals, and have only read the Bible a couple of times, and not the whole Bible either.

That being said what I don’t get is why anyone would care. If someone is non-violent, tolerant of others, not bigoted, and not trying to ban science from the classroom or “offensive” art from the galleries, what difference does it make if they believe in Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Bast, Santa, or nothing? What difference does someone’s doctrine of hell make, if you are sure you won’t be going there anyway? Fundamentalist Christianity–Fundamentalist religion in general–scares me because of the intolerance and the violence. Liberal Christianity doesn’t. I’ve seen the comfort it can provide people in their hour of darkness. I’ve seen people draw on their faith for strength when their child was murdered. Why would anyone want to deprive them of that?

Religious belief seems pretty hard-wired into humans. If you supress it, it often returns in even more obnoxious forms, like Maoism or Naziism. The best thing to do is to follow the constitution and let people worship freely and privately in a manner of their own choosing and base public policy on secular reasoning. Most liberal Christians seem to agree with this.

Also, please stop the whole “fighting ignorance” thing as though it was some sacred mission. It’s just a catch-phrase Ed and Cecil probably dreamed up over a few old style’s.

Well, I know you hate hearing it, but I think it really does boil down to “fighting ignorance”. No, really!

If this were any other place, I really don’t think it would matter what beliefs somebody professed, as long as those beliefs lead them to be happy and don’t lead them to hurt anybody else. I have co-workers, friends and family who are very religious, and I would never dream of trying to convince them of their folly. For that matter, I know people who believe all sorts of other ridiculous things, whether it be alien abductions, reiki healing, chiropractic “medicine,” talking to ghosts, etc., and once again, as long as they don’t try to convert me to their beliefs and don’t seem to be harming anybody, I figure whatever makes them happy is all right.

This is the Straight Dope message board, however. Fighting ignorance may not be any “sacred mission”, but it <i>is</i> the avowed purpose of this site. And what constantly amazes me is that some people (not you in particular) have no problem laughing at or attempting to prove wrong people who believe in every other sort of unprovable supernatural phenomena, and yet feel that religious beliefs should somehow get a “free pass.” Either people are free to believe whatever they like, without discussion or attempts at debunking, or else <i>all</i> beliefs in non verifiable phenomema are fair game for attack and ridicule. Anything else is just plain hypocrisy.

And, on a related note, I think that what puts a bug in the butt of people like <b>badchad</b> is that some people like to appear very rational and very logical and go to great lengths to prove why their particular belief in the supernatural is somehow superior to the beliefs of the ignorant masses who believe in other supernatural forces.

To sum up, the purpose of this message board is to answer questions, fight ignorance and provide the truth wherever and whenever possible. If it’s OK to discuss why John Edwards is full of crap for telling people he can talk to ghosts, and it’s OK to discuss why Uri Gellar is a fraud for telling people he can bend spoons with his mind, and it’s OK to discuss why people who believe in healing crystals or auras or reiki or chiropractic "medicine"are deluded (regardless of how much those beliefs lead them to be happy), then it should be just as OK to discuss why people who believe in an invisible, intangible being who somehow affects every aspect of our lives without actually revealing any evidence of his presence are also deluded.

Note to self: HTML doesn’t work on this message board…