Tag Archives: apologetics

Blasphemy!!! — maybe, maybe not

blasphemy

Recently, the image above graced my Facebook page and me being me, well it provoked a number of thoughts. Most pressing was the question: Is this a depiction of a blasphemous action? For most people I think it will simply be perceived as a humorous physical gag at the expense of Christianity; end of story. Of course, since I identify as a Christian I am always interested in general perceptions of Christ and Christianity and so I react to images such as the one above with more than a passing interest.

If we look at a standard definition of “blasphemy” our trio of young cut-ups above are certainly guilty of it:

…the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God… irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blasphemy

To be sure any number of Christian people will perceive the image above much differently from someone who doesn’t believe in God or Jesus Christ.

Left: What some Christians might interpret the original image as and at Right: What the majority of folks will be picturing

Left: What some Christians will visualize and at Right: What the majority of folks will be picturing.

Personally, I don’t ascribe to common interpretations of blasphemy and I certainly don’t consider the actions of the jokers above to be on par with the soldiers mocking of Christ in the Biblical account. Honestly, I think it’s important for Christians to know that “the World” expects Christians to be uptight and to react with knee-jerk outrage to irreverant actions. At least half the fun for the perpetrators of such acts is to provoke exactly that reaction. However, my hope is to dissuade Christians from giving unbelievers what they want.

The plain truth is, Jesus Christ was murdered. In the events leading up to his death by crucifixion Christ was physically beaten and mocked while that beating was occurring. Christ’s blood was spilt. Regardless, of what one feels regarding Christianity or Christ —to simulate the Village People’s famous Y.M.C.A pose is nothing on the order of the indignities suffered by Christ at the hands of his executioners.

The real sin evinced in the picture heralding this blog entry is simply the sin of unbelief. I don’t hear Christ accusing them of blasphemy so much as I hear the words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV) The guiding principle as always, is love. Love isn’t just a word or an idea; love is action and character.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

I thought I’d emphasize the “not easily angered” bit or as the King James Version of the Bible puts it— “is not easily provoked”. Really, that should be the guiding principle whenever we deal with people that do not embrace the same values and beliefs we hold.

And one final thought, I am curious if our merry pranksters would be so quick to have some fun at the Prophet Muhammad’s expense? Somehow, I don’t think they would, and, somehow that strikes me as kind of funny 🙂

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Does it always have to be Science versus Spirituality? PART II

Science vs. Christianity

Yesterday, in part I of this discussion I blogged about a recent study whose findings suggested religious or spiritual belief suffers under the light of analytical thinking. In other words, the more thinking you do the less likely you are to believe in the supernatural. Hopefully, I was able to demonstrate that within a Christian framework there is no cause for disagreement. Further to this is another study published just days ago in which scientists identified specific regions in the brain where the spiritual interface is thought to occur.

All fun stuff, but the underlying inference is that God is simply a product of our evolutionary progression. Many news organizations covered the story but I always enjoy reading the CBC’s take on things, as they never cease to entertain:

But if we accept the implied argument here that, as a function of our evolutionary heritage, our brains have evolved to respond to the presence of God as a real, concrete person, then many of those people struggling to believe in an abstract deity are working against their very natures.

The evidence from this group in Denmark suggests that the more abstract the concept of God, the more unreal the experience is to the human brain.

That’s why the idea of a divine intermediary, as Christians and Hindus believe, is such a powerful invention — for those who accept it, that is.

(Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/story/2012/05/07/f-vp-handler-god-spot.html)

Once again, apart from the evolutionary component, Christian belief is in accordance with the study’s findings.  In other words, simply as a means of comprehending God intellectually, we are required to use our brains. Personally, I believe in a tripartite construction of the human being. Those parts consisting of spirit, soul, and body.

Fortunately, the comprehension of God transcends the limits of the soul wherein lies our intellect, rationalization, emotions, and will. God can be apprehended by spirit and connected with on a transcendent level. That is why the mentally infirm, and the comatose are able to commune with God despite their physical challenges. Christianity transcends the inherent limitations of our brains.

Of course, Christians and their scientific critics do view things differently, and this unfortunately is a critical impasse.

For the Christian the thought that we are created in the image of God resonates with us and for the secularist the opposite holds sway; or as the CBC article put it:

God may be incomprehensible, the true and ultimate “other.” But in the end, we seem to turn Him into a person. Perhaps that’s only human.

The problem with humanistic interpretations of spirituality is that you are left with a shell or a gutted husk of spirituality one lacking the transformative power  to change lives. Citing again from the CBC article:

As well, in this Ideas series, we hear James Carse, a religion writer and former history professor at New York University, tell us that belief is “the enemy of religion.”

“Beliefs come and go,” he says. They are disposable. And he’s disposed of his, pretty much.

What Carse appreciates is “tradition.” By this he means that when someone experiences God, it isn’t via some woozy, mystical event, but through participating in a community, along with other congregants.

Carse may appreciate his tradition but as the Bible recognizes:

Thus have you made the commandment of God void by your tradition. (Mathew 15:6 King James version 2000)

and again:

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (2 Timothy 3:5 King James version 2000)

To me, that’s the end result of such thinking—all the outward trappings of religion but none of its life-changing power.

And worse, traditional practices historically promote the destruction of indigenous cultures by imposing upon them rituals and religious forms alien to their native culture. Stained glass windows and wooden pews archaic rituals steeped in Euro-centric cultural traditions bearing little or no relevance at all to the subjugated populations.

What a turn-off for young people seeking real meaning and purpose in their lives. Pipe organs, Latin liturgical addresses, and Gregorian chants may inspire some but far more people will relate to a vibrant message of hope adaptable, malleable, and meaningful within the confines of any given culture.

A spirituality that will resonate with or without the availability of Bibles, manifesting uniquely whether you are an African bushman, a Ganzu fisherman, or a Seoul housewife and mother.

As Jesus said:

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 New Living Translation 2007)

Pretty hard to put a box and steeple around that kind of thinking, folks—and honestly, who would want to?

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Does it always have to be Science versus Spirituality? PART I

Image

Too often the science vs. religion debate is framed within an either/or proposition.Two articles recently caught my eye dealing with the ongoing debate between religious (I prefer “spiritual“) belief and science. The first I found quite enlightening (pardon the obvious pun) centering on a UBC study whose results suggested that critical thinking inversely affects religious faith. The study put forth a dualistic model in which two fundamental thinking types exist: intuitive and analytical.

(The article was widely circulated but you can read the Chicago Tribune’s take on it here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/la-sci-religion-analytical-thinking-20120427,0,7996681.story)

Essentially, folks operating from an intuitive “gut-level” POV report a higher affinity towards religious belief whereas their analytical counterparts are more likely to eschew religious perspectives. I most definitely fall into the former camp and therefore my own spiritual convictions may add validity to the study in question.

Obviously, the tenor of the discussion falls well within secular confines and therefore precludes any substantial opportunity for spiritual redress. But hey, that’s why I’m here! And, yes, I know that quoting the Bible make people’s eyes glaze over but it remains my go-to source for making sense out of the world. On the upside, the Bible actually tends to support the study’s own findings. So that’s gotta be good right? Now, personally, I prefer the good ol’ King James Version of the Bible, but when blogging these things out sometimes a different version proves useful.

In this case, The New Living Translation published in 2007 should do the trick:

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (I Corinthians 1:21-23)

In other words, the Bible acknowledges that in light of rational or analytical thinking the Gospel or spiritual belief will appear as foolish, stupid, insipid—well you get the idea. Amazing how things haven’t changed much at all when it comes to spiritual understanding.

Humanist thinker, Michael Stone took note of the study as well, citing Mark Twain and Frederich Nietzsche amongst others in decrying the foolishness inherent within a faith driven paradigm:

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.” – Mark Twain

(source: http://www.examiner.com/article/study-shows-thinking-diminishes-religious-faith)

Twain’s comment is tinged with that salt of the earth humor that has made him such a beloved character. And Nietzsche’s comment? Well, humor isn’t really what he’s remembered for. And yet, science and Christian belief are agreed that when examined under critical analysis faith comes out looking rather foolish.

We know the Bible is loaded with thoughts on faith. Nonetheless, its own definition of faith stands in marked contrast to the wry humor of Samuel Clemens and the biting criticism of Nietzsche.

 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 from the Living Translation again)

It’s interesting that Twain and Nietzsche both question the “truth” of Christianity and yet Christ is the self-proclaimed “Way, Truth and Life”. (the emphasis is mine).  So rather than avoiding or denying truth, Christianity avows, advances, exalts, and demands a fervent love of truth in all its adherents.

Simply put, as the Bible states:  …you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)

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