Sunday, June 2, 2013

Judeo-Christianity as a Syncretistic Phenomenon

I have just finished reading 'Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting'.
It is of the 'historical-critical' mould of theology. The type that attempts to explain how the Judeo-Christian God merely evolved from a mixture of various other neighbouring cultural traditions. So it's actually more like anthropology than theology. The historical-critical method aims to demystify God and reduce religion down to a social phenomenon that has merely evolved from the social environment. It basically denies that God actively reveals Himself in people's lives over history, as well as denying the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

I have always steered clear from this type of liberal theology in the past, not necessarily because I was scared that it would destroy my faith in a personal God, but primarily because these scholars seemed to be mostly motivated by the desire to justify their atheism by rationalising God out of existence. After all, no God = no consequences for one’s choices in life.

So after some initial discomfort towards the critical assertions by the author at the start of the book, I started to open up to the ideas within it. Assertions such as; “Jahweh, the God of Israel, started out as a tribal god, like the other Semitic deities.” ”Hebrew thought, in it’s initial stages, was not monotheistic” ”Israel, like other nations, had it’s creation myths.” “Such creation myths lie behind the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.” These are just a handful of examples from the first few pages, but enough to give an impression of the general tone of the thinking in the book, a tone that zaps the wonder and awe that most Christians view the Scriptures with.

The discomfort that such irreverent statements causes stems from some serious questions that are raised about how we view God and Scripture. It is easy to dismiss such authors as godless cynics, but such rash judgements aren’t necessarily warranted. For the first time I’ve started to see some sense in this type of liberal criticism. It’s not that this thinking necessarily dismisses the reality of God and the inspired nature of Scripture (although liberal scholars do go this far), rather it questions the modern beliefs of how the Patriarchs of old came to know God.  Was God known to the Patriarchs as we know Him now? I tend to think that Abraham, Moses and the prophets all had radically different ideas of who God was. And their knowledge of God would certainly be determined by the different surrounding religious and philosophical beliefs, just as Christians now are influenced by Islamic, darwinist, materialist and other prominent philosophies that pervade our zeitgeist.

So is it really sacrilegious to suggest that the various individual books of Scriptures each hold their own narrow and myopic view of God, if the authors of these books themselves had their own narrow and myopic views of God? Certainly not. In fact it makes perfect sense, because it was only with advent of the Messiah’s teachings that all of the individual teachings in Old Testament were pulled together by Christ to be fulfilled as a cohesive whole.


But the key point to keep in mind in light of all this, which the scholars who practice historical-criticism don't seem to get, is that none of this diminishes the awesome nature of God as we now know Him. So it's not that God is a just phantasm of the mind which evolves through the millennia from surrounding cultures (as many liberal scholars would conclude), but rather it was God’s purpose to reveal Himself over time through various influences of neighbouring cultures. God uses the influences of other cultures to build His ‘religion’.
Liberal scholars would recoil at this suggestion, ridiculing it as a desperate attempt of religious people to hold on to God in a scientific age where there are fewer and fewer unexplained aspects of reality to hide Him. But this is not so. Just as these scholars think they have eradicated the reality of God by eliminating the mystical places for Him to fill, God shows the awesomeness of His omnipotence and power by being the force behind the even greater complexity of life and reality that we are uncovering through science.

God doesn’t just work in miraculous ways, rather He primarily uses the natural things of this universe to affect His will. For example, the atheist would say that a religious person's happiness isn't a mystical gift from God, rather it is merely just a result of neurochemistry, a purely ‘natural’ phenomenon. Yet what the atheist doesn't realise is that God uses the natural neurochemistry of our brains to cause the emotion of happiness. This is far from a weak answer, which at first seems to move God’s actions into the realm of the untestable. How, the atheist must answer, would God affect happiness without activating the 'happiness' neurochemistry in the brain? Neurochemistry and the brain are God's creation, thus logic demands that He would use it to cause any emotion He so desires.



God has never been hiding in the inexplicable and miraculous aspects of the physical universe, rather He has always been the power behind the physical 'laws' of the universe.
Just when atheists and liberal scholars think they have gotten the upper hand on God in eliminating Him from rational existence with their historical-critical and scientific methods, God then uses these exact same methods of His critics to prove the magnitude of His reality!!! God drives the dynamics of societies to produce Christianity just as much as He drives the dynamics of physical nature such as neurochemistry. That's how big this God is!

God is behind it all, every atom, every thought and every action!


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