Groothuis’ "Christian Apologetics" ch.5: Distortions, The God I Don’t Believe In

This chapter of Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics is full of good stuff.

“The rise of science in the West is unique in world history.  As Stark says,

Real science arose only once: in Europe.  China, Islam, India, and ancient Greece and Rome each had a highly developed alchemy.  But only in Europe did alchemy develop into chemistry.  By the same token, many societies developed elaborate systems of astrology, but only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy.  Why?

“The answer lies in the Christian West’s view of God, creation and humanity.  Unlike cultures elsewhere, ‘Christians developed science because they believed it could be done, and should be done.’  Philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead noted in Science and the Modern World that the medievalists insisted on ‘the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher.  Every detail was supervised and ordered: the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality.'” p. 101

“Slavery in Greco-Roman times was not as harsh and cruel as American slavery, although it certainly was no model for any society.  References to slaves submitting to their masters in the New Testament are not endorsements of the institution but temporary injunctions given certain social realities.  This is evident when Paul refers to slave traders as evil (1 Timothy 1:10) and when he bids slaves to seek freedom lawfully when they can (1 Corinthians 7:21).  The book of Philemon did much to revolutionize the Christian view of slavery.  Paul writes to Philemon that since Onesimus, his slave, is his rather in Christ, he should be treated well, ‘no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.  He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord’ (Philemon 6). … (Jesus’) instruction that his followers not lord it over others but rather prize servanthood sets in motion an ethic ultimately incompatible with slavery (Mark 9:35).” p. 105

“Moreover, Jesus did not set up a male-dominated religious system in which women would be permanently subjugated.  He surprised his followers by teaching theology to women in private and in public (Luke 10:38-42; John 4:7-27; 11:21-27) at a time when women were excluded from such affairs.  Although he esteemed the family, Jesus stipulated that a woman’s principal purpose in life is not reducible to motherhood and domestic work, but is found in knowing and following God’s will (Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28).  Jesus also appeared to Mary after his resurrection and appointed her as a witness to this world-changing event–in a time when the witness of a woman was not respected (Matthew 28:5-10; John 20:17-18).  His model of leadership was based on mutual service and sacrifice, not hierarchical authority structures:

Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28).

“In addition, in the early church, women served as prophets (Acts 2:17-18; 21:19) and teachers (Acts 18:24-26).  Paul clearly articulated the spiritual and ontological equality of male and female believers when he said, ‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all on in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28).” p. 107

“He never authorized imperialism, exploitation, coercion, threats or any other means of illicit power over others.  Instead, he tells us to love our neighbors and even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  The book of Acts shows the early Christians winning conversions through persuasion, not coercion or manipulation.  We find Christians, such as Stephen (the first Christian martyr), being persecuted and killed for their faith.  This did not lead the Christians to an armed revolt but to fervent prayer, fasting and acts of faith in the face of opposition.  Sadly, some later Christians who held the reins of political power did enforce Christian conformity through the sword.  We would be hard pressed, though, to find any warrant for this in the teachings of Jesus or the apostles.” p. 111  Reminds me of Jesus putting the guy’s ear back on in Gethsemane.

“Further, the purpose of these wars was not the conversion of the inhabitants of the land but their military defeat.  Therefore, there is no parallel to Christian witness today, which has nothing to do with conquering land by force. … The call for a holy (military) crusade made by the church is always out of sync with the Bible itself.” p. 112  I would add that the OT purpose was not mere defeat or conquering, but judgment.  Revelation tells of judgment, but before that we will be raptured and won’t be around to help bring it about.  Thank God he is patient.

“…humanity’s cultural achievements will be purified and brought into this resurrected world.  ‘The wealth of the nations’ shall be brought into the eternal kingdom, thus giving its citizens ample occasion for enjoyment and appreciation.  Beyond these historical monuments to God’s cultural grace are the manifold cultural creations that will flourish in a restored universe which is free of the Fall and filled with the manifest presence of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9, Revelation 21-22). … As Irenaeus wrote, ‘The glory of God is man fully alive’–and the redeemed will be fully alive in their glorified state.” pp. 115-116

(discussion index)

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4 Responses to Groothuis’ "Christian Apologetics" ch.5: Distortions, The God I Don’t Believe In

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Does G. also mention the connection b/w slave submission and wifely submission?

    The Southern Baptist Convention defended slavery, segregation, Jim Crow Laws, the denial of female voting rights, and the necessity of women to submit to their husbands. See D. Marty Lasley [a Southern Baptist], “Keeping Women In Servitude: Why Southern Baptists Resurrected The Hermeneutics Of Slavery” (2000) — On June 10, 1998, the SBConvention, for the first time, amended the 1963 Southern Baptist statement of faith known as the Baptist Faith And Message, adding a brand new section (XVIII) entitled the “Family Amendment” that states in part, “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him [spiritually], has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation [in the societal realm].”

    Southern Baptists believe their amendment concerning the necessity of wifely “submission” and the wife’s duty to “respect, serve and help” her husband, is what the Holy Scriptures demand. But Southern Baptist slaveowners once believed the same thing regarding the “submission” of slaves and the slave’s duty to “respect, serve and help” their masters.

    In 1844, the national Baptist General Convention for Foreign Missions refused to license slave-owning missionaries. One year later, that refusal led to the split between the northern and southern Baptists. The next year, in 1845, those firmly convicted defenders of slavery formed their own separate Baptist denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. As early as 1823, Richard Furman, a leader of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, stated in a letter he wrote to the Governor on behalf of SC Baptists, “The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.” [See Exposition of The Views of the Baptists, Relative To The Coloured Population In The United States].

    The Southern Baptist view was that slaves were better off under the loving, tender, compassionate care of Christian slaveowners [they weren't, as numerous slaves testified who had devout Christian owners], and the institution of slavery was to be “a blessing both to master and slave.” [Just like today’s Southern Baptists who preach that the “submission” of women to men is the only “blessed” norm.–E.T.B.] In fact it takes but a little rewording of the 1998 “Family Amendment” to make it fit the 1845 Southern Baptist view toward slaves: “A slave/wife is to submit themselves graciously to the servant leadership of their master/husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. Slaves/females, being in the image of God as is their master/husband and thus equal to them [spiritually], has the God-given responsibility to respect their master/husband and to serve as their helper in picking cotton/managing the household and nurturing the next generation [in the societal realm].”

    “One hundred and fifty-five years later, after a Civil War that left 600,000 dead & 1 million wounded, we recognize that our Southern Baptist descendants were on the wrong side of history & Biblical interpretation…But if the slave subordination and submission passages are no longer binding upon the church, then why are the female subordination and submission passages?

    “Southern Baptist seminary profs were forced to sign a pledge of acceptance of the Family Amend. or be fired. Denominational leaders were given the green light by their agencies to brand dissenters as heretics.”

  3. Greco-Roman slavery included slaves being forced to fight in gladiatorial contests, and crucifying slaves that tried to revolt. I don't recall anything like that in the South. As for Paul's lame remarks, he never contests the institution. Neither did Augustine or Aquinas. While the South got a lot of play out of the line in the Gospels attributed to Jesus, “The slave who knew his master's will and did not do it shall be beaten with many stripes.” And here's an article on slavery and Christianity at the scholarly site, The Bible and Interpretation:

  4. Hi Ed. Thanks for replying. A lot of Christians have used their false interpretations of the Bible to justify unjust beliefs and actions. And a lot of atheists still prefer to think the Bible is actually saying those false interpretations. Makes it easier to bash.

    You are asking me to defend positions I don't hold.

    I hope you check out some of the verse-references quoted from Groothuis' book. Good stuff.

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