Christianity’s biggest challenge

Saturday, October 24, 2020

It’s an old and fundamental bug: part of Christianity has come to the belief that the Bible is God’s authoritative revelation to Humanity and formulates a divine law system. I believe that this belief is a misconception to which many people, both Christians and non-Christians, still cling. But there are signs of hope that this bug will be fixed in due time.

I believe that this understanding of the Bible is a misconception because the only authority regarding ethical questions is reality or, if you prefer that name, God. We Christians personify reality and call it “God”, but we must not forget that God’s name remains “holy” to us: beyond our imagination and unreachable to our mind. Consequently we cannot fit God into a collection of texts. The Bible can be illustrative and inspiring, but not authoritative. The Bible is the historic trace of God’s revelation in Jesus, but it is not the revelation. See also Biblicism.

This misconception about the Bible causes direct harm because it makes Christians believe (and publicly state) that abortion should never be allowed or that same-sex couples have no right to marry. Such statements directly hurt the humans who personally face abortion or sexual speciality. Statements about controversial questions are a visible result of theology. You recognize the good prophets by their fruit (Mt 7:16). Christians who fight against legalisation of same-sex marriage do this because they still cling with the misconception.

This misconception also causes indirect harm because it (1) falsifies the Gospel, causing people to turn away from it, and (2) distracts public attention from more important problems like legalization of lie and egoism.

The bug is difficult to fix because it has been growing during many centuries. It has deep roots and lives in liturgical texts, doctrines and many other teachings of Christian church organizations.

Another reason why this bug is difficult to fix is that it is about a rather fundamental belief. A human who grew into this belief is unlikely to change their mind about it during their lifetime. That’s why it takes generations to fix it.

The work of fixing this bug has already started generations ago. Just one example is Peter De Rosa, who wrote books about it (and sacrificed his career as a Catholic priest).

The documentary Francesco on the life and teaching of Pope Francis, says that he endorsed same-sex civil unions. And this documentary has been positively announced by the Vatican. This is revolutionary news and gives me hope that we might be reaching the final sprint of this bug hunting project.

Of course the Pope has the huge responsibility of keeping the big flock together. Some of his sheep stubbornly prefer to cling with the named misconception.

As by coincidence, only one day after that documentary, an international group of conservative sheep, led by the Trump administration, formulated the Geneva Consensus Declaration [1], which I would summarize as a rebellion against the United Nations.

Another example of stubborn sheep is evangelical author Gene Veith, who is quick to clarify on Patheos that “such an off-the-cuff statement (…) made to journalists does not constitute an official church teaching, much less an ex cathedra proclamation that claims the authority of papal infallibility” and finds examples to subliminally accuse the documentary of manipulating the Pope’s opinion through video editing. He finally concludes that “We would join with our conservative Catholic friends in wishing that Pope Francis would speak more carefully and, if he is misconstrued, to explain his position more forthrightly.”

In Estonia, the news that Pope defends civil union of gay couples caused bishop Philippe Jourdan to clarify that “despite the loud noise triggered by the Pope’s words in this documentary there are no changes in the teachings of the (Roman-Catholic) church regarding the concept of marriage and the church laws that regulate it, including the so-called ‘partnership laws’”.[2]

Lutheran archbishop Urmas Viilma comments on Facebook that the Pope’s point of view is quite analog to what Viilma previously had written in Postimees: “Provided that the concept of marriage remains safely secured, same-sex couples have a justified requirement towards the parliament of getting the current status quo resolved.”[3]. I admire Viilma’s talent in formulating diplomatic positions. Lutheran pastor Jaan Nuga commented on this comment in a less diplomatic language that “when you lend your finger to the Devil”, the latter won’t “refrain from taking your hand and even your whole body” and that, “when we will have taken care for the homomaniacs, the cleptomaniacs will raise their head and demand their rights”[4]

Yes, fixing this bug will take generations! But we are on our way. These are controversial questions and we can’t help but finding compromises, and we must do this together.