Corporate Sin Post Script: Did The Historical Jesus Know John The Baptist? (My Last Blog Post For A Little While)
This will be my last post for a little while. I think Bradley will still be posting. I just wanted to share a few final thoughts on Corporate Sin. Did The Historical Jesus Know John The Baptist? Our first gospel Mark clues us in that his portrayal of John the Baptist serves a literary and theological agenda rather than an historical one.  For one thing, Mark invents a new reason for the baptizer’s death.  The historical baptizer was beheaded by Herod because of political reasons, not a holy man morally chastising/embarrassing someone that led to a girl asking for his head: Jewish historian Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the mili ... Read Article
Corporate Sin (2/2)
So, last time I talked about getting beyond the personal sin/sinner's prayer ideology of the conservative evangelical interpretation of Christianity to the corporate sin issue of things like systemic racism that needs to be made conspicuous and overcome with the liberal/progressive Christian interpretation. Terry Simon has a helpful quote on this: The story of Native Americans in the United States is a tragic one. They were enslaved by the conquistadores, massacred by U.S. soldiers and cheated out of their lands by shifty politicians, and native children were taken from their families to strip them of their culture and language. As I have learned more about their story, I felt ashamed for this part of our country’s history. I felt as if I personally had done wrong to these people. For some reason I also felt guilty. Why should I feel guilty about something that happened long ago? I certainly had no part in any of the tragic events. But I was collectively feeling the pain of the native peoples and th ... Read Article
Corporate Sin
"The world is ending... Honestly ... So, uh, you better get right with God!" As an Atheist/Agnostic, I don't believe in God or an afterlife or any of that, but I do think there are better and worse interpretations of original Christianity. I am of the interpretive school of liberal Christianity, rather than conservative Christianity. For example, the latter has a baffling understanding of sin as primarily individualistic, which seems to be the exact opposite of the original Christian message. Here is a quote that was being discussed on the blogosphere a few years ago: Samantha Field says: Framing racism or other systemic social problems as a “heart issue” accomplishes a few things. First, it centers Christianity in the conversation. If racism is a “heart issue,” then the solution is conversion or repentance– all the individually racist person needs to do is repent and allow Jesus to change their heart. If a racist person accepts Jesus into their heart and once they’ve done so, fol ... Read Article
Who Moved the Stone? Part 4: Moving a Smaller Square Blocking Stone
The question “Who moved the stone?” is used by Christian apologists to raise an objection against some skeptical theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, especially the Swoon Theory (see Objection #7 in Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, p.183-184), but also the Conspiracy Theory, and the Hallucination Theory. In Part 1 of this series, I argued on the basis of examples that one normal healthy adult could easily move even a larger-sized circular stone, even if that stone weighed 2,300 pounds. For example, in 2009 Kevin Fast pulled a 208-ton airplane for 28 feet in less than two minutes (because the airplane was on wheels). In Part 2 of this series, I argued on the basis of calculations of the force required to overcome rolling resistance that one healthy non-disabled adult could easily move a circular blocking stone that is the size and weight of the blocking stone used at the tomb of Jesus (assuming a circular blocking stone was used), contrary to the ... Read Article
Conservative vs Liberal Christians: Wait, There’s Another Way To Read This?!
So, Adam and Eve sinned, and we are guilty of that sin, so God sent Jesus to die for our sins and save us. Right? Well, that's a conservative Christian reading. Against this, many liberal Christians see Adam and Eve as a metaphor. Dr. James McGrath comments: Question: In Paul’s mind Christ is the “second Adam,” having succeeded where the “first Adam” failed. According to Paul, it is precisely because of the failure of the first that the second was required. McGrath: What I would note is that, if Adam in Genesis 2-3 is simply a symbolic depiction of what is typical of humanity in general, then the comparison still works just fine: Jesus succeeded where human beings in general failed, not just where one failed. The contrast seems to me to be between two ways of being human, and just as being in Christ is not about being descended from Jesus, there is no obvious reason why being descended from Adam is crucial to the comparison. I would also note that Paul plays fast and loose with the det ... Read Article
Thanks so much for reading Secular Frontier! If you're looking for some secular and philosophy content for kids, do check out Secular Web Kids . New posts all the time! ... Read Article
Mark’s Narrative Of The Crucifixion As Historical Fiction
I posted this back in 2011 on Dr. R Joseph Hoffmann's blog, but it still bears repeating today: The central drama of the Christian Religion, the crucifixion narrative in Mark, is historical fiction. We can know that Jesus was crucified through other means, but the narrative elements never happened. I want people to understand that the interpretation of the cross where Jesus died for my sin to appease God’s holy wrath is wrong. This interpretation has a vague analogy to 4 Maccabees, but is not how the overall NT imagery is being used. It’s common sense. How does killing/punishing an innocent child in Africa for the crimes of a sadistic felon in Chicago serve justice? And, if there is one thing the God of the Hebrew Scriptures can do and does, it’s forgive. Mark is inventing details for Jesus’s crucifixion narrative by recapitulating psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Paul doesn’t have a passion narrative So:The Passion of the Christ in Mark: (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 in Haggadic Midrash) Likely ... Read Article
(Part 2/2) Jesus and Socrates with Dr Dennis R MacDonald
So, last time we were thinking a bit about Mark's soldier at the cross saying "Now when the centurion who stood facing him saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly (Ἀληθῶς, Alethos) this man was God’s Son!” The word for "truth" in Greek would carry a number of hearings for the Greek ear. For instance, it meant "correct," as in a "correct judgment." But, the first letter of the word "truth" could also be heard as something in grammar called an alpha privative (like in "a-theist" or "a-gnostics"), and so "a-letheia" or "truth" would also mean "un-covering." For instance, when Jesus says "I am the way, the 'truth' and the life," he doesn't just mean he is "the correct," but also "the un-covering" or "re-vealing." A lot of the imagery about Jesus points this way, and so even the "apocalypse (a prophetic "re-velation")" of John carries this meaning. So, for instance, Jesus un-covers for us the true meaning of the law from the hiddeness caused by incorrect common opinion. ... Read Article
Jesus and Socrates with Dr Dennis R MacDonald
I just wanted to share this short MythVision interview that came out today where Dennis MacDonald argues Luke's passion narrative purposefully imitates the death of Socrates: One disagreement I have is how Dennis reads his thesis of the contrast between Mark and Luke into the way he translates Mark 15:39 to be sarcastic. He translates: "Oh sure, this was the son of God!" Certainly, a sarcastic reading is possible, and others have attempted it, but as the NRSVUE says the Greek just reads: Now when the centurion who stood facing him saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Ἀληθῶς οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος Υἱὸς Θεοῦ ἦν). I would like to argue that Luke is simply making more conspicuous what Mark is also saying with Luke building an entire Socrates themed Jesus in Luke's passion account. In both cases of Mark and Luke they seem to be using imagery indicating Paul's future succe ... Read Article
(2) Reflections On “Evil And Theodicy” by Laura W. Ekstrom (2023) part 2 of Background Context
Cambridge Elements on Evil and Theodicy (Part 2) So, as I said I’m going to be looking at the new Cambridge Elements on Evil and Theodicy, which can be found here:  (sorry I forgot to link to it last time).  Do download it before it is removed. Moral judgments/evaluations are the same as other such evaluations in other areas and refer to objective criteria.  So, for instance, wine judging can reliably be done according to criteria such as color, clarity, aroma, bouquet, taste, aftertaste, and overall quality.  These may not be meaningful to someone who hates the taste of wine, but such subjective bracketing in no way invalidates the objectivity of the criteria.  And so, a majority of experts will apply the criteria similarly: Baby Duck Red Wine will not get a high score! Similarly, a teacher may evaluate a piece of narrative writing according to the criteria of 6+1 Traits of Writing: Voice, ... Read Article
Reflections On “Evil And Theodicy” by Laura W. Ekstrom (2023) part 1: Background Context
Summary Suffering is ubiquitous. Quests to make sense of it in relation to the existence of God – and to find meaning in our lives in the face of it – are significant aspects of the human experience. Evil and Theodicy motivates the project of theodicy by examining arguments rooted in evil against God's existence and by critically assessing the response of skeptical theism. Ekstrom explores eight different lines of theodicy. She argues that, even if the prospects for theodicy are dim with respect to defending the rationality of theistic belief in light of suffering, nonetheless, work in theodicies is practically useful. Brainstorming to activate context prior to reading: I think God is legally guilty of depraved indifference murder for things like earthquakes, hurricanes and cancer.  I don't think evil necessarily disproves a higher power, just certain types.  I don't think an omniscient/omnipresent/omnipotent/omnibenevolent god who loves us and has a plan for our lives is compat ... Read Article
The Empty Tomb
Here is a recent short interview Dr Robin Faith Walsh did on the meaning of the empty tomb (see time 1:27 ff) Walsh discusses the History of Greek and Roman literature/culture with bodies disappearing from tombs because the person has become a god, such as in Chariton's novel.  The empty tomb in Greco-Roman culture was meant to convey a change in status, a person becoming a god.  The interviewer then raises to Walsh the question, based on what meaning an empty tomb would have, as to whether the disciples may have stolen the body, as this is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and perhaps parodied in what Walsh thinks may be a satire on the gospels, the Satyricon. Supposing there was an empty tomb, which isn't required because crucifixion victims were not always given proper burial, the body may certainly have been stolen precisely for this reason: to perpetrate a hoax with the common theme an empty tomb would carry. Walsh conveyed the humanity ... Read Article
Islam and Postmodernism (warning, some pictures and words below not for those easily offended)
One of the key questions for postmodern French thinkers like Deleuze and Foucault was Reich asking: "Why would people will their own repression?" And so, the ethical task of postmodernism was eliminating fascism, both in society, and in ourselves. For example, it baffles some westerners as to why some North American female led companies would cater to a conservative Islamic female line of clothing, like Modest Wear Canada, which famously appeared on Dragon's Den, the Canadian version of Shark Tank: Modest Wear Canada (Printing Dress) As many know, conservative Muslims often forbid the depiction of the prophet Muhammad in art. Hamline University fired an art history instructor for showing medieval artwork depicting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad during an art history class. The prof did everything right: She announced the painting in the syllabus, she used trigger warnings, she gave students the opportunity to leave. And she got fired based on the complaints of people who weren’t even in the cl ... Read Article
Islam And The Prophet Muhammad: A Genealogy Of Modesty.
How can modesty become a cultural virtue? To approach how many Muslim women can come to see themselves though the lens of modesty and see covering up as a virtue, it has to be understood through the lens of male/female views generally (If you'll excuse the lack of LGBTQ recognition here). Historically, only the wives of Muhammad were required to cover themselves, and so this tells you not only how contemporary Muslim women view themselves when they cover up, but also how Muslim men view themselves. Sexual maturity is traded for identifying as one's theological superhero. But clearly, as the cartoons above illustrate, this all depends on men viewing females primarily as a sexual object, and so a culture of modesty is born. Women are marginalized in Islam because they are primarily seen as sexual objects, and not persons. As I said, women view themselves this way too. Also see my previous post Wives In The Quran: ... Read Article
(Part 2 Schnabel, Conclusion) Paul And The Problem Of Repentance
There are no grounds, as some argue, to think repentance doesn't sit at the front of the Pauline argument. Schnabel convincingly argues There is no basis for the argument that Paul avoids the terms μετάνοια /μετανοεῖν because of antipathy to the term devalued by the penitential practicesin contemporary Judaism, as Johannes Behm alleges, or merely becausefor Paul “μετάνοια is comprised in πίστις, the central concept in his doctrine ofsalvation,” or because this term “did not stress sufficiently God’s action insalvation.” The relative scarcity of the terms μετάνοια / μετανοεῖν in Paul’sletters should not be accorded too much weight. Inferences from word statisticsare, at least in this case, not helpful. Paul does use the terms μετάνοια /μετανοεῖν. He also uses other terms and phrases in order to express the needto, and the reality of, changing mind and heart, outlook and behavior. We haveseen that Paul knows the Jewish doctrin ... Read Article
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