Long, long ago, in a galaxy not so far away that we can’t hyperlink to it, Mr. Marcus Schooley Calvin “Wile E.” Quixote said this:
“What notitia of the gospel, or perhaps even its rational support, can the natural man assent to or place his trust in? Is not the message of the cross foolishness to those who are perishing?”
Translation: What part(s) of the information that Christ died for your personal sins (or even the information that supports this) can you agree with or place trust in when you don’t trust the whole religious concept of a Jesus Christ? The Scripture reference Marc quoted basically says, Isn’t this a self-evident contradiction?
Spiritual Enlightenment: It’s So Insulting
Herein lies the rub: along with this Scripture reference comes a snippet of isolated text which is claimed to say that those not enlightened by God cannot perceive God accurately. (As if those enlightened will then get it all perfectly right?) Essentially, it’s claimed, humanity cannot choose God. Even if a person wanted to. Which they won’t, because people are naturally hostile to God.
Insulted yet? Because it is. It’s insulting to our sense of our own goodness. Of course we’d choose God, if we wanted Him, and if God would only live up to being good enough for us to accept Him. But who wants a God who talks down to His creatures like this? The immorality of any religion which proposes such a Supreme Being!
Divert all Engine Power to Bombast and Verbal Frippery
This particular area of Christian teaching too often sets up fabulous ground for the religious to reduce all dialogue to the rubble of appeal to authority rather than thinking about things. And that in turn sets up fabulous ground for skeptics to engage in gratuitous debunkings. As I wrote two years ago:
See the problem with, “Because it says so,” is that it’s not asking anyone–skeptic or churchgoer–to take the Bible at its word; it’s merely asking them to take the pseudo-arguer at their interpretation. There is a time and place to say, “Take me at my word,” after trust is earned and relationship is built. But let me just say that for those who don’t believe in personal relationship with a divine being, this trust thing is not even in the scope of consideration. It is more than blind; it is like trusting the void, empty vacuum of space, only with less substance and measurability.
So does the prediction of hostility to God proceed into reality, and it causes all kinds of strife. It’s sometimes difficult to say, pragmatically, whether the non-Christian’s hostility to God is due to what the Christian’s jargon calls “spiritual blindness” (no high moral ground in that terminology, no, no) or whether it’s due to a vicious cycle of stupid conversations in which both sides are entirely culpable (vide here and here).
Nonetheless, we are all responsible for our own choices, thinking, and the base of knowledge we cultivate, regardless of what stupid things others say.
Egads, We Do Have Things to Talk About (For Instance, Aliens)
This is why it’s important that Quixote’s question presents a different light which–potentially, at least–brings the smarmy collective of the religiously enlightened and the self-righteous antagonism of the religiously disinclined to the level of actual dialogue.
Notitia: a list of known things.
The gospel: See 1 Cor. 15:1-4.
This, at least, we can talk about, can we not? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re instantly in trouble, because you can’t discuss the Gospel while avoiding the question of resurrection. Shall we? No, no, after you. Very well, then. I’ll go first.
The believability of resurrection is really not on the line here. (And all the atheists throw up their hands and walk away.) I say this because the question of resurrection–or the perception that it has occurred–is perennially fascinating to a society rife with technological advances. Could it happen? Perhaps. Must we invoke aliens to make it work 2,000 years ago? Oh, goody. The possibilities are endless.
Wait, It’s Not About the Aliens?
That’s not the main problem with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The main problem with resurrection is that it’s assigned a key spiritual meaning and purpose in a theology despised by its detractors. Resurrection means victory over sin. It means sin needed to be vanquished in the first place. It means that karmic apathy and the hope for eventual human betterment are off the to-do list. That is, if anything the notitia of the Gospel present is true.
No, it’s not about the aliens, it’s unapologetically about the insult to human pride. This only ceases to be an insult when all pride is gone.
There are more painful ways to come to the end of one’s self-importance than to make free-minded inquiry. I believe that’s something the atheists have been trying to get across to the religionists for quite awhile now.
The notitia of historic claims can be investigated through a variety of lines of inquiry. But this is not the list of known things which most greatly concerns a hedonistic culture. No, we are most concerned with what interferes with or advances our own happiness–whatever we perceive that to consist in.
Welcome to my Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
And unfortunately, the churches are part of the problem more often than part of any solution. We are bombarded with argumentation that religion and its associated moral tenets will make us happier, wealthier, and Save The American Way.
Really? Is that all she wrote? Lie in the stadium aisle and pray that the end won’t come? Let me return once more to yon Quixote’s remarks of long ago:
Notitia, assensus, fiducia: a tripartite latin formula some reformers relied upon to illustrate elements of saving faith. The notitia was the intellectual, informational, or knowledge component of the gospel. In normal situations, a person needs to know the gospel content to be saved. Assensus is the belief aspect–a person needs to assent to the gospel. There’s an emotional draw to it in one’s soul. Fiducia is the act of placing one’s trust in Christ.
Saving faith necessarily combines and includes these elements, according to the formula, roughly equivalent to the mind, heart/soul, and will. Faith involves the entire person.
Faith involves the entire person. Not one’s pursuit of happiness, one’s wallet, or one’s political leanings or moral policy. None of that matters. The divine demand is for all of you. Now that…that’s something to generate hostility.
And it sounds so very much different than what the religious culture presents. More power, then, to those who challenge our meanderings on and off the trail of disbelief.