Thursday, March 05, 2009

On Faith

Mark raised an interesting topic in the comments section with his objection to Christian author and Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan...

I saw you own a book by John Dominic Crossan. No wonder your personal expressions of Christianity are so incoherent and delusional! Do you, as does Crossan, believe that Jesus was not bodily resurrected, but that his dead body was scattered by foraging wolves?

To which I caddishly responded:

I do find Crossan’s works interesting and worth reading. Is your faith so weak that it requires proof of a physical resurrection to maintain?

Only to have Mark shoot back...
You have it backward. The weak in faith is Crossan, who, because he can find no physical “proof” of the resurrection, resorts to baseless speculation about wild dogs dragging the body away.

So I think this exchange raises an interesting question about faith and Christianity. What does it mean to have “faith” in Christianity? Must one accept without question all of the Biblical stories of miracles and resurrections to be a faithful Christian? Or is it more important that one embraces the actual teachings of Christ and apply them to ones own life.
I have said before that I know several professed atheists who are better “Christians” in my opinion than many Christians I know. Why is it that most churches and most religious leaders seem to emphasize the miracles more than the teachings of Christ? Is it so hard to believe that God might have sent his son down to Earth to live as a real human? Why is it so important that he had to be some kind of super being who could walk on water, turn water into wine, cast out demons and raise the dead?
If Jesus were to come back today, how many people would insist that he perform a miracle before they would follow him?
I’m not saying that Jesus did not do these things. If he did, then that is great. I don’t have a problem with it. What I am saying is that my faith does not hinge on this belief. If someone could, for example, prove beyond a doubt that Jesus didn’t walk on water and that it was really just a Biblical metaphor, my faith in Jesus would not be shattered. But for many other professed Christians I can’t say that would be the case. That is why I say that they are weak in their faith.
Is it not enough that Jesus taught us how to love one another, how to live in peace and to care for those less fortunate than ourselves? Is that not enough to base our faith on? Would enough people not worship Jesus unless they also thought of him as some kind of avenging superbeing ready to swoop down and defend the righteous and punish the wicked?
Jesus was a teacher first and foremost. The church was set up to pass on that teaching. But along the way I think the teachings of Christ have been overshadowed and supplanted by all of this dogma about miracles. I think it is fine for one to say that Jesus died for our sins. But I think it is more important to learn what it was Jesus was here on Earth to teach us about and to apply that teaching to our everyday lives.

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