Do we believe crazy things? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Yesterday, I finished, and it took awhile, the hadiths of Al-Bukhari (expect some blogs on that sometime) and I always like to be reading at least one book that disagrees with me. So I opened my emails eventually and saw in my kindle book offers one about the first in a series of the crazy things Christians believe. Not only that, it was written by an ex-minister who is now an atheist, which makes it all the better for me. I love reading these kinds of things.
So today, I started with an introduction as this one is about how Christians are supposedly obsessed with blood, which I find interesting since when I play an Assassin’s Creed game, I actually turn the blood off.
So let’s see what he, Barnaby Baker, has to say in his main introductory chapter.
Baker starts by saying that he can understand children coming to be Christians, but not grown and rational adults. As he says:
Modern people, who know the earth is not 6,000 years old; they know the earth is not flat. Yet by the millions they wholeheartedly believe a book that says it is.
Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 13-14). Kindle Edition.
I would contest both of these claims. It’s as if ex-ministers seem to always maintain the fundamentalism in them. Baker should know there are plenty of different interpretations of Genesis and this is not a modern phenomenon. Augustine even in A Literal Interpretation of Genesis held that everything happened instantaneously.
As for the Earth being flat, Christians throughout the Middle Ages did not believe this. Atheist historian Tim O’Neill shows that here. Baker does encourage Christians to read contrary thought, but that is a sword that cuts both ways. More on this later.
When my parents graduated Bible School in the late 70’s, they felt led by God to start a Church thousands of miles away from where we had grown up. As a result, I had no friends outside the Church and was actively discouraged from forming friendships with “unsaved” neighbors. To further my isolation, my sister and I were home schooled using a correspondence Christian education system. Although I liked this simplistic education that consisted of filling in check boxes and taking multiple guess tests; I did not enjoy the isolation and craved social interaction. This is one of the reasons I loved going to Church. For a while it was my only social outlet!
Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 14-15). Kindle Edition.
In the original, he highlights “felt led” and I understand why. While I am a student at a Southern Baptist Seminary and very conservative, I long for the day when Christians drop this language. It’s really hard to join in a group prayer when people talk about the leading of God in this way when I see no Scriptural basis for it. It’s so strange that many my fellow Protestants claim to be Sola Scriptura but believe wholeheartedly something not found there.
The Bible talks about being led of the Spirit in three places. The first is in Mark 1 where Jesus is led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil in the wilderness. There is no mention of how this is done. Thus, if you want to make a doctrine out of this verse, you’re taking something exceptional and unknown and making it known and the norm. The other two places are Romans 8 and Galatians 5. In both of these, the meaning is the same. Led by the Spirit means holy living in contrast to wicked living. It means following the path of Christ.
I do support homeschooling children, especially today, but it looks like Baker was not just homeschooled, but was isolated, which I do not support. Students who are being homeschooled need to be encouraged to read all that they can on both sides of the issue. Isolating our children from the world does not work.
Through my parents, my school and church, I was thoroughly convinced the Bible was true and anything contrary to it was false; a lie perpetrated by the Father of Lies – Satan.
Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 16). Kindle Edition.
This is another mistake we make. If you are undergoing any evil, it’s because of Satan. If anyone is doing something wicked, it’s because of Satan. If someone believes something false, it’s because of Satan. We honestly make Satan too many times the exact opposite of God, as if they’re on an equal level. Consider that if someone is tempted, they can too easily think it’s Satan. To give a crude example, when your average guy sees a beautiful girl, he doesn’t need the devil to be tempted. It’s this strange idea that if we removed demonic influence, all of us would suddenly live perfect lives.
This is not to deny that there is a real devil who does real evil, but he is not omnipresent. He is a limited being. We also have a sin nature. I can easily think demonic spirits are involved in things like false religions. Still, we must walk a fine line. I try to not jump to the devil card without real evidence.
When you are as deeply immersed in Christianity, as I was, you are blinded to seeing that most of the things you believe are totally weird!
Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 19). Kindle Edition.
You know what? Christians do believe some weird things. You know who else does?
Everyone else does.
We can look at what the ancients believed before us, but if you look at some of the problems Greeks were solving without the aid of modern devices that we have today, they were incredible thinkers. If you had gone and told them, “Did you know the Earth revolves around the sun?” they would likely think that’s a crazy belief. Why? Just look up! You can see the sun at different parts of the sky every day! Look at the moon! It changes constantly!
When I meet atheists who think that existence is a brute fact or that on some level the universe contains within itself the basis of its own existing, I consider that a crazy belief. If you were presented with the idea that our ancestors swam in the ocean at one time in the past, you might consider that a crazy belief. Today, it’s science. That doesn’t mean it’s false at all. I’m not arguing it is or isn’t. There are a lot of things we all believe that to someone else is crazy. 1,000 years from now, they will think a lot of the things we believe today were crazy and will likely chalk it up to things like primitive science.
Are we Christians exempt? No. We believe in a virgin who gives birth, which I do affirm, a sea parting as thousands of people passed through, and that a dead man got up and walked out of a grave and is the Lord of the universe. On the surface, that is crazy.
At the same time, that is not an argument against what we believe. I find it so odd when atheists come to me and say “You believe XYZ”, most notably miracles. Yes. I do. And? The problem is these atheists are arguing from their own belief where miracles are crazy. If there is no God, I agree. They are. However, if there is a God, I think non-belief is crazy, especially with all the evidence, most notably Keener, see here and here.
If your basis for reality comes from a single book and your closest companions in life are people who do the same, you become mentally isolated. Your viewpoint is narrowed and becomes limited, extending only as far as these beliefs allow. This is all further compounded when the only non-Biblical books you read are books written about the Bible, or about the lives of other believers and their Christian experiences. The people you admire and hold in high esteem in your life are those who have similar or greater beliefs than your own. All this works together to further solidify your beliefs and ensure your experiences and feelings follow suit.
Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 19-20). Kindle Edition.
I agree with this entirely. I encourage Christians to read outside of the Bible and outside of their Christian circles. Right now, non-Christian works I am reading are a mystery novel, and I am always going through one, this book I am reviewing now, Geek Wisdom, which is wisdom found in sources that are considered “geeky”, and Latter-Day Prophets Speak, which is quotations from Mormon prophets. I am reading Graham Greene’s fiction now, who was a Catholic, though it doesn’t seem to show a lot in the writings thus far, but I read fiction by non-Christians as well.
Yet the sword cuts both ways here. If anyone lives in an echo chamber, I find it is normally atheists. I often ask “What was the last academic book you read on the topic that disagreed with you?” I could count on one hand if even that many was needed the number of atheists who reply with such a book. My favorite is to give a link to people to this book to read. I do that one because on Kindle, it is 100% free. It is also quite thorough. So far, no one has taken me up on this offer.
It is also why when I discuss the ways of Aquinas, I also ask people to just tell me what the first way is saying. Normally, when I found people responding to it, I always had to correct them every step of the way on how they were getting it wrong, and usually they weren’t listening anyway. Now I ask people to just tell me what it says so we can be sure we are arguing on the same basis. Nope. It’s just jump straight to “Here’s why it’s wrong.”
I agree with what Baker is saying here, but I think he should also say it to his own people as well. Atheists can remain in a bubble just as much as Christians can. If anything, I have found Christians more often seem to know what other people believe more than other people know what Christians believe.
Faith, by virtue of its nature, does not require reason or thought in order to have it. Faith is purely based on our feelings not reason. Yes, life is far simpler when you don’t have to think for yourself. It is much easier to believe everything happens for a reason – God’s reason. By thinking that God is in control, we are absolved from any responsibility. The good that happens is attributed to God and the bad things are the devil’s fault.
Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 22). Kindle Edition.
Unfortunately, Baker gives no source for this definition of faith. I have written my own work here on what faith really does mean. I honestly think this is one of my most referenced pieces I have written. I have argued strongly against the idea that faith is a feeling. Faith, like love and other realities, can produce feelings, but is not itself a feeling.
Thus far, in some ways, I agree with what Baker has said, but overall, it’s not a Christian problem. It’s a human problem. Baker has not given me any evidence that he sees his camp as an exemption to this. If anything, I find atheists MORE prone to this kind of thinking because they are convinced they are rational. See what I have written here for more.
We’ll continue next time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)