As I noted in my last posting, my comments on a blog posting by a writer from Boston brought an in-your-face response from him.
Afterward, some of you emailed me about emotional confrontations when you attempt to share your faith. One friend said her brother “becomes enraged” at any mention of religion.
On 01/26/12, another message from Paul. I thought Oh, my, but instead:
“First of all, thanks for your good note. I apologize for the delay in responding, and although I don’t want to take more of your time than this minor dispute between us deserves, surely your note deserves a response.”
Me: Wow! Is this the same guy? He’s really trying to be civil. Apparently courtesy beats conflict.
Paul: “Our difference is minor, at least on the use of the expression to which you took exception. On the larger issue of religion, we’re worlds apart, but I long ago suspended my effort to change the world.
“As I tried to explain, perhaps unsuccessfully, the expression I used wan’t (sic) intended in a theological way at all; rather, it was intended simply to say …”
Paul discusses arcane points about writers knowingly working without pay for a religious organization. Then he launched into the following:
“On the theological implications of the expression, you’re absolutely right: theologians … claim that the expression denies the role of god in our lives. That view is succinctly put in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works,” etc. However, the expression — god helps those who help themselves — is perfectly consistent with the strain in Christianity that stresses good works over belief — that we show our faith by our good works — and there are many references to that view … See James: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
“… It’s clear from your note [previous] that you’re a ‘believer,’ and you’ve probably guessed that I’m not. I don’t want to go out of my way to disparage religious belief, but I don’t think it deserves the general respect it receives. It’s a form of superstition that I hope the human race outgrows, as it has outgrown every system of belief that preceded it. Christopher Hitchens was absolutely right adding the subtitle “Why Religion Poisons Everything” to his book God is not Great; it’s a book that believers should read and consider.
Comment: Paul says he doesn’t want to disparage religious belief—and then he does it. Superstition? Religion is poison? Okay, let it go. Don’t get stuck to the tar baby of argument; Paul [and many of your difficult people] like to argue. What’s my objective? If possible, to establish a relationship with Paul. He’s got a hang-up about religion for whatever reason. If he’s ever to be won to Christ, it won’t be because I proved him wrong. No one wants to be shown up! He will come to Jesus only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul attacks the heart of the Christian faith: “As for Biblical inerrancy, that horse has been out of the barn for a long time: far from being inerrant, the Bible is filled, literally filled, with historical inaccuracies, and modern theologians take more pains these days to defend the inaccuracies than to deny them. Evangelicals, always the caboose on the intellectual train [clever statement, but offered with no support], continue to defend the debunked idea that the Bible is inerrant. Although there are many scholarly discussions of biblical inaccuracies and inconsistencies, one website I’m familiar with does a pretty good job of at least listing them: www.bidstrup.com/bible2.htm . In my reading and in discussions with my many religious friends, the ‘defenses’ of these inaccuracies are embarrassingly silly or historically convoluted … unconvincing …”
I looked up this bidstrup link. Briefly put—it’s neither objective nor scholarly. Scott Bidstrup, the author of the site, is an “anti-capitalist, skeptic, and gay activist” with no other listed credentials. He’s put together a mish-mash of errancy claims with contrived research. One example: the claim that Nazareth didn’t exist at the time of Christ is based on a book by a music composer/mental health professional with no archaeology qualifications. On the other hand, he ignores extensive research reported on http://www.Christian-thinktank.com and other reputable sites.
If Paul won’t make an objective search for truth on his own, what is my responsibility toward him? Doesn’t I Peter 3:15 exhort us to always be ready to give an answer …? What’s your responsibility toward your brother, your daughter or son-in-law who rail against “religious hypocrites”?
More next time regarding Paul … and what your approach might be toward those God brings across your path.