Well, you’ve done it Internet. You’ve broken me.
Just when I think there are no more ways people can get Christianity wrong, I see stuff that doesn’t even make me upset; it just leaves me scratching my head and wondering how anyone living in the United States or Europe could be so wrong about the underpinnings of the last 2,000 years of our civilizations.
And then I remember that the United States and Europe are far different than they were even 50 years ago.
So as a part of my mission is to clear up misconceptions and change perceptions, I’ve decided to set up my booth, so to speak, and talk about some of these things people think they know about Christianity, but have way, way wrong.
I’m not trying to convert anybody (but if you want to visit a Greek Orthodox Church to see what it’s all about, that’s great!) but I would just like to change contemporary American’s perceptions about what it is us Christians do and believe.
This is not done in anger, but as a relatively quick way to clarify some Christian beliefs. And I am not trying to convert anybody, just attempting to do a bit of level-setting so we’re not all talking past each other when we discuss Christianity.
Mind you, I’m approaching this from the perspective of my church, the Greek Orthodox Church, so your mileage may vary.
Before we begin, I have to point out that these are actual questions I have gotten and actual things I have seen on-line and elsewhere. I’ll only go over a few in this post, mainly focusing on the Bible itself, because if I don’t control myself I could go on about this stuff for days . . .
“You think God wrote the Bible, so you can’t disagree with it even when it’s wrong because Christians are all superstitious (and dumb).”
No Christian believes that God Himself wrote the Bible. If anyone’s been taught that God literally sat down, uncapped his pen, and scribbled down a few notes, than they seriously need to find a new teacher.
Christians, and Jews as well with regard to the Jewish holy books that Christians call the Old Testament, acknowledge that these books were written by humans. Humans inspired by the Spirit and by prophecy and by divine revelation, yes, but still people. People like Moses and David and Solomon and Elijah and John and Matthew and Paul and so on.
So “divinely inspired” could mean that God used people to transmit his ideas to mankind, if you want to split hairs. But no, God din’t write the Bible one morning over coffee or whatever it is that God drinks in the morning up in heaven.
Let’s give this one a rest.
“Why do you need a New Testament? Did God get the Old Testament wrong? And what about that Mosaic law! Something something shellfish something something!”
“Old” and “New” doesn’t refer to one being outdated or discarded and the other being “updated” and “current.” What it refers to is the fact that Christianity is an outgrowth of Judaism. Jesus Christ and all of the Apostles (those men and women–yes, women) that followed Him around were Jewish and followed Jewish law. Gentiles, including Romans, were brought into the fold as Jesus’ ministry went on.
Anyway, Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of Jewish law and prophecy. As He said Himself: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”
Fulfill (or “fulfil” if you’re King James), meaning that some of the Mosaic law does not apply to Christians. Ever wonder why Christian men don’t have to be circumcised, or why Christians don’t have all of those dietary restrictions (or any, really, save for fasting during Lent and other holy periods . . . but there really aren’t any hard-and-fast Christian rules about fasting . . .)?
Some Old Testament law–stuff like the Ten Commandments–is still a part of Christian practice. We use the Old Testament for the stories and fables and legends and lessons and history and poetry and wisdom. In fact, in my church, our services are full of Old Testament passages and readings and custom.
But where does the “New” come into play? Christians see Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, foretold to come and redeem humanity. The “New” refers to the “new covenant” Christ made with humanity, symbolized at the Last Supper (the bread and wine part).
Don’t think of “New” as “updated,” but as a continuation.
“Do you really believe those creation stories? All of those myths and legends are so silly! Christianity is incompatible with science!”
I can’t speak for every denomination, but my church does not take everything in scripture purely literally. The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is filled with figurative and allegorical language, and it actually doesn’t take that much effort to discern what was written down as history and what was written down as allegory or legend.
So lets go to Genesis. The world created in seven days, Adam made out of dust, right? A few things:
- How long is a day to God? How did God himself create man? Out of dust? Maybe “dust” is a metaphor for matter in general, since what we are made of is the same stuff the universe is made of? You see where I’m going with this?
- No one was there, but these legends came from somewhere; perhaps God himself?
- Legends, stories, and symbolism are used by both man and God (think about Jesus and his parables) to explain the unexplainable in terms mankind can understand.
If your church believes differently, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
As to the “incompatible with science” part, tell that to the scientists throughout history, and even today, who are Christian or otherwise religious and get back to me. Yes, some scientists are atheist. Correct, some science goes against what is in Scripture. But notice how the stuff that science “contradicts” is usually in those myth and legend parts. It’s really not that difficult for Christians to go “Huh. Maybe humanity just wasn’t advanced enough to understand what God meant until now.”
“But you all think the Earth is only 6,000 years old!”
Not in the Bible, and not a part of most churchs’ doctrines. Not my church’s, at least.
“You all hate women! You’ve been keeping them down for centuries! And what about all of that ‘Submit you your husband’ stuff? The Bible is misogynist!”
I grew up in the church. My grandfather is a priest. I still go. I have been to Greek churches all across America, and even ones in Greece. Never have I heard even a hint of misogyny in any church I have been in, from any priest or bishop or deacon or even parish council member I have known, or from the women who run the bulk of church philanthropic organizations and perform other functions that keep the church going from day-to-day. So this is “misogynist teaching” is new to me.
And to much of the world, as well. Look around the world where women have the most rights. I’m stepping into it here, but they are all nations based on Christian principles, even if they’re not Christian now. Most of the “authority” to do this stuff comes from deliberate misreadings and outright lies. St. Paul’s discussion about women submitting to their husbands is used, but ignores a) that Paul was a man of his times and his writing reflects this, and b) the entirety of this passage:
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
–Ephesians 5:22-33 (emphasis added)
Maybe you find this paternalistic. But that’s different than teaching misogyny which, let’s remember our Merriam-Webster, means “a hatred of women” (emphasis added).
I recently read an article by Anne Graham Lotz that explains things in great detail, but suffice it to say that Jesus was born of a woman, performed miracles and revealed His true nature to women, gave the Holy Spirit to women and men alike, protected prostitutes against being stoned to death, had female followers, and never, not once, said a disparaging word about women.
“But abortion rights!”
The Christian position is that life begins at conception and that the life of the child outweighs the desires of the mother. Of course, there are exceptions that need to be carefully weighed, such as when the life of the mother is in danger. And as with most of life’s decisions, this is between the individual and God. You might disagree with this, but it is not misogyny.
“Hitler was a Christian. That’s why he hated Jews and tried to kill them!”
The canard that just won’t die. I’ll let the incomparable Eve Keneinan handle this one:
In other words, Hitler was about as Christian as the Westboro Baptist Church.
I think that’s enough for now. If you have anything else you’d like to ask, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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