The Logic of Christianity — What’s Missing? 16

I stumbled across an article this morning that I found particularly amusing: The Logic of Christianity: What am I missing?

The author was being rather tongue and cheek and admitted that she understood that many Christians would not see things the same way she sees it, so she asks, “What am I missing?”

I don’t want to respond by pointing out every misconception or misrepresentation in her daftly written piece, or even answer her question about what she’s missing. I want to focus rather on the “Logic of Christianity” — some pointers on how to understand the “Language of Revelation.”

Admittedly, there are several instances in the Old and New Testament that do not convince the critical reader at first, or even after serious reflection. This statement from the article, does not represent the type of serious reflection I would credit to a thoughtful, critical reader:

“Then, a few thousand years later, God decides to forgive mankind for the original sin of Adam and Eve.  He pondered on how to go about it and then, voila! He came up with a great idea! He would murder his son. (Why all the excessively brutal sideshows is beyond me) Jesus had to die for our sins. Without Jesus dying, for some reason, the almighty God is not able to forgive mankind.”

Some straw man arguments don’t even deserve a response. This woman’s article is strewn with this types of misrepresentation that would take more pixels to debunk than I have the time to dedicate to the task. In order to respond to the original question, “What am I missing?” the correct response is, for the most part, accuracy, ma’am. (Any intelligent reader can detect this on his own without my having to delve into a full rebuttal, but if anyone wants to question me on this, they can do so by posting their criticism in the comments below).

There are, however, several valid questions raised in the article concerning why an almighty, omniscient, benevolent God would behave in ways depicted in the Bible. Why create mankind in such way that they are destined to fall into a trap, the consequences of which would make God sorry he ever made mankind, and thus, decide to wipe out the entire lot of them, save one just family, who in the end does not turn out to be your modle Cleaver household when it’s all said and done (e.g., drunkenness, incest, rape, murder, etc…)?

We need to bear in mind that many of the books of the Old Testament are narratives that relate the account of salvation history in allegorical form. Allegory has a logic of its own. For instance, using a New Testament example, how can I refer to Christ as a Lion and a Lamb at the same time? How can I use snake to represent the devil in Genesis and a prefiguration of Christ in Exodus? Why is fire a symbol of hell, on the one hand, and the Holy Spirit, on the other? Where is the logical consistency in all this?

The answer: The human mind just gets it. Metaphor is a sign of the sublimity of the human intellect. We get the point quicker and more intuitively when symbols communicate directly to our consciousness than when we spell everything out in pedantic theology. And stories comunicate these things more effectively to a broader range of people than detailed descriptive accounts do.

Speaking of story, it’s providential that “The Hobbit” debuts in theaters at midnight (unabashedly shameless plug: tune in tomorrow for my review on Peter Jackson’s movie — that’s right I’m taking in the show!)

Tolkien’s understanding of myth and legend sheds a lot of insight on the use of narrative and parable:

“I believe that legends and myth are largely made of truth, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be perceived in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.”

What Tolkien says with regard to myth and legend can be applied as well to ancient narrative, stemming from oral tradition, and parable. The truth conveyed in the story is not so much always the precision or accuracy of the account itself, but the motif or value that underlies the account. In the case of salvation history, it is the inversion of what we tend to think is about man’s search for God — religion has more to do with God seeking out and redeeming the broken heart and soul of man. The means of communicating this turbulent love story is the narrative of the human struggle when he forsakes the  ways of God, and the extents to which God is willing to go in order to restore mankind to his state of grace, so that he can welcome us with open arms to the eternal banquet, where there’s a place at the table waiting for us, with our name tag on it.

Returning to the logic of Christianity question the way it was originally posed: “You mean we are going to have cutlery and fine china and linnen cloths in Heaven?” If that is your question, then I’m afraid you just keep missing the point. That being the case, it would probably be most fitting to end with this quote from Aquinas:

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” — Thomas Aquinas

16 comments

  1. I Corinthians 2:13-14 “And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

  2. Allegory and Metaphor are beautiful means by which to teach lessons. As are fables and fairy tales.

    Personally, I still love to read fables and as you say, I “get” them.
    However, there are those that sit there and begin to question the entire story. Which is fine! The problem is, that they are not asking the “Right” questions…

    “Why wouldn’t the Hare just finish the race instead of taking a nap and thereby allowing the Tortoise to win?”

    For these people I now have a word….Biltrix 😉

    • Great way to put it — Not asking the “Right” questions. Might as well question the possibility of talking animals too (Wait! That’s also in the Bible!).

      Thanks for the comment (and the compliment 😉 )

  3. Hey, James!
    Great post, as always.

    Authors like “What Am I Missing” aren’t looking for Truth; they’re looking for a foil or a mark. Society has trained them that Christianity (and most faiths, for that matter) exist to be ridiculed. Their jokes are usually lazy.
    They’re not funny on their own as jokes; they’re funny because their circle of friends have convinced them that the SUBJECT is funny.

    If you go to any comedy club in a given week (certainly on one of the coasts), you have a better-than-even chance of someone mining for laughs using the “horrors” of their Catholic School years, or the goofiness of attending Mass, etc.,.
    It isn’t humor; it’s a crutch. But it’s now a socially acceptable crutch.

    You’re exactly right that a proper fisking of the article isn’t worthy of your time. The author isn’t even slightly open to an honest exchange of ideas.
    However, the people who read such an article may be.

    It all goes back to Culture. We have to start getting our message out more casually, in addition to our normal full-frontal attack. I hate to keep coming back to my own area of expertise, but it truly is a Branding issue:
    when you hear “X”, do you think “Y”, “Z”, or nothing at all?

    When people hear “Christianity” or “Catholicism”, what do they think? Too often, it’s not what they should.
    For roughly the last 40 years we’ve been horrific at this, and we desperately need to improve.

    Yesterday.

    For what its worth, partner, blogs such as yours are a great step in the right direction. Taking over one of the Big Three Networks would certainly be BETTER, but hey, …baby steps.
    🙂

    Sorry for running long again. I really need to learn to shut up after two sentences…..

    • Thanks, JTR. I’ve been picking the atheist mind and learning quite a bit about their approach to religion and reality. You summed it up nicely when you said they are looking for a foil of a mark, but not the truth, and that their approach to assessing Christianity and Catholicism is nothing but ridicule, for the most part. Not all atheists are willing to admit that, yet even though they may not be the ones taking the popshots, they’ll agree of the agressive mocking of those who do, and back them up by laughing at their lame attempts at humor.

      • Not a problem, ever! Your insights are always well appreciated. God bless!

        (Besides, once I get going, it’s hard to get me to stop — but when there’s something to say, say it!)

      • Many of us ridicule Christianity because we find it to be ridiculous. You would ridicule people who seriously believe in a flat Earth, or in the 9/11 conspiracy, right? I kind of hope so, because those are ridiculous ideas. For the most part, things that people seriously believe that require a suspension of the laws of nature as we currently understand them are ridiculous: e.g. ghosts, Catholicism, Scientology, etc. Say what you will, it is utterly ridiculous to believe in resurrection or the power of intercessory prayer in our world. It is no more respectable or less deserving of ridicule than believing in voodoo spells or witches; the only difference is the relative level of social acceptance brought on by the widespread success of Christianity in previous centuries. If Christianity is not ridiculous, then surely it can provide evidence to those who scoff at claims of resurrections and miracles and holy water and the tens of thousands of other silly ideas our clergy talk about in order to draw their paychecks. To me, the simplest explanation seems to be that people are ridiculing Christianity more and more because more and more people are realizing that Christianity is a scam.

      • Are you on Facebook, Will? Sorry if that’s getting personal, but if you are on Facebook, then I’d like to invite you to join a debate page between atheists and theists. It’s a very active forum and you’ll find a lot of likeminded people there as well as many who disagree with you. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks.

  4. We sophisticated moderns with our statistics and obsessive ratpacking of every detail of every minute, forget that the ancients weren’t rough-hewn rubes. They understood the big picture. They understood the power of symbols in a largely illiterate society. Just because they pre-dated Freud, doesn’t mean they couldn’t probe the human psyche. The ancients who scratched an existence from the soil truly understood sacrifice; that the grain and animals being given up for God was food out of their mouths. They understood the fragility of life and the ageless power that the sacrifice of one life could mean for a clan or tribe or a nation or a church. Perhaps today, some are too far separated from that day-to-day struggle for life, making these beliefs and symbols easier to dismiss.

    Or maybe, the author’s thinking was this: “If I poke at God during Christmas, maybe I’ll get more traffic.”

    Just have to ask, where did you find “Thumbs Up Jesus”?

    God bless and keep up the great work!

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